PERRY: Welcome to the nay-boor hood; Aurora residents want ‘affordable’ housing anywhere else

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The proposed lot for new Habitat for Humanity homes at the corner of East Evans Avenue and South Joliet Street.
Photo by Philip B. Poston

 

Probably the most illustrative comment in years about how serious as a city and community we are about addressing the crisis of affordable housing was lodged this week at an Aurora City Council meeting.

“I support affordable housing, just not this affordable housing.”

The eye-rolling quip was made by a resident to city lawmakers Monday night during a public hearing on a plan to turn a vacant, 2-acre lot into some really nice homes in a typical Aurora neighborhood.

The resident, who likes affordable housing anywhere but near them, lives in the Havana Heights Park community where Habitat for Humanity is hoping to build a small development called Mountain View Community.

The plan is a state-of-the-art proposal to do way more than lip-service to solving the affordable housing crisis in Aurora and across the metro area.

The land is owned by and adjacent to Mountain View United Church. They’re going to lease the land to Habitat for Humanity, and eventually the owners of 10 duplexes, for 99 years. These so-called community land leases are crucial to keeping entry-costs down for potential homeowners.

Schematic of potential design of Habitat for Humanity project in Aurora. SOURCE: CITY OF AURORA

Once created, some of the monthly mortgage payments goes back to the church, which can pay off the land over time, or reinvest the money in more land for another lease someplace else.

As is too often the case, somewhere else is preferable to many people when news breaks that affordable housing is being considered in their neighborhood.

As is also often the case, like-minded Aurora city council reps who “support affordable housing, just not this affordable housing,” voted to snuff the project.

This time, councilmembers who have for months professed their concern about Aurora’s affordable housing crisis, and how they want the city to provide for affordable housing, just not this affordable housing, were Mayor Mike Coffman, and councilmembers Dave Gruber, Curtis Gardner, Marsha Berzins and Francoise Bergan.

The site of a proposed affordable housing community that would be managed by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver. Photo via Habitat for Humanity

Here’s what these vocal supporters of affordable housing, just not this affordable housing, are upset about.

Habitat for Humanity wants to build 10 duplex houses, 20 homes, on a cul de sac at the 2-acre corner of East Evans Avenue and Joliet Street. It’s two acres. Two.

Each of these duplex houses, which look just like almost all of the other houses in the neighborhood, except newer, would cost about $300,000 for qualified owners to get mortgages. The homes would be offered only to families who make no more than about 80% of the area median income or about $78,000 annually for a family of four.

The houses look like they belong in the neighborhood, which mostly sold years ago for far, far less than what these “affordable” houses will cost 20 families who consider themselves lucky to latch onto one for three-hundred-thousand large.

Yes, we live in a city where a $300,000 home is considered “affordable,” even though for hundreds of thousands of people who live here, scraping together even a down payment on a house like that, let alone the mortgage, is a dream far, far away.

But the people who get to live in these homes must have steady jobs, good credit and some amount of savings so they can qualify for a mortgage.

So, exactly then, what’s the problem here?

Parking was one complaint. Only six of the houses have driveways and garages. Everyone else has to park on the massive cul de sac or on the street along the side of the homes, where no houses currently exist.

The proposed lot for new Habitat for Humanity homes at the corner of East Evans Avenue and South Joliet Street.
Photo by Philip B. Poston

Yeah. Parking for this project is not a problem for anyone except, maybe, the people who live there and want to park right in front of their house on demand.

I get it, and so do you.

It’s clearly another case of “those people.” People just like the rest of us who get labeled as “others” because they never got the breaks in life to make buying a home a reachable goal.

And now, with the cost of housing and living in the area soaring while wages absolutely do not? Good luck with that.

So a bunch of people sympathetic to all this, like Habitat for Humanity, build really nice homes here and all over the country, being equally concerned about residents of communities who don’t want to see tenements thrown up for the sake of having supplied “affordable” housing.

Instead, they build sweet houses, often using volunteers to help keep the sticker price down, and now they’ve found a way to work with churches and others on land issues that keep too many families out of their own home.

It’s a great idea here, or anywhere.

I’m pretty sure future homeowners in the Mountain View Community would be far more accepting of the current residents in the area, and their city council representatives, even though some of them so far appear to make for pretty lousy neighbors.

Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter or Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]

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Chuck
Chuck
1 month ago

I worked with Habitat in Illinois years ago. I’ve seem them improve neighborhoods. I hope our City leaders have the courage to support Habitat.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Chuck

THEY did, Chuck, just the ‘right’ decided they didn’t like the idea…go figure:
council members [ Dave Gruber, Curtis Gardner, Marsha Berzins and Francoise Bergan.and of course the Mayor] who have for months professed their concern about Aurora’s affordable housing crisis…voted against it.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago

Well put Dave. Not to mention the fact that usually there is also ‘sweat equity’ involved in the building of these homes so the owners are even more involved. These aren’t just ‘given’ to them. So again. Why are the CONSERVATIVES so against affordable housing plans when it’s brought to them by a CHURCH??? and by a reputable CHARITABLE organization with a properly thought out plan where everyone is involved in the process???? Beats the hell out of me. And what about the ‘christians’ who are saying oh no! not in my back yard!!! I think perhaps they need a 7-11 built there….maybe that’s what they need .

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug King

Good idea, Doug. And let the shooting begin. Then we’ll see what he has to say. Really, though, what I get is this: “It’s been an empty lot for years and I like it that way. An empty lot does not have cars, and I like that too. This change is just too much for me to handle.”

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

you live over in that area do you Joe?

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
1 month ago

I don’t consider $300,000.00 “affordable,” either, but building costs are what they are as we continue to remove options for people.

I wonder if the guy who made the statement ever reviewed the plans or looked at the pictures. These houses look wonderful! I wish I could buy one, and I would love to see them built in my current neighborhood. They are not subsidized or Section-8 housing. Who does the guy think is going to live there?

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

the people who get to live in these homes must have steady jobs, good credit and some amount of savings so they can qualify for a mortgage. Maybe you could buy one.

Don Black
Don Black
1 month ago

It is always easy to be generous with other peoples’ lives and property.

Myles Ahead
Myles Ahead
1 month ago

NIMBYs are the greatest danger to affordable housing, not just in Aurora and metro Denver but everywhere. People also need to remember that a vacant lot is not “open space.” A property owner, in this case Mounta9n View United Church, has a right to develop their land subject to the fair application of local zoning codes. This seems like a project for which the community benefits far outweigh the risks.

FeelingsAreNotFacts
FeelingsAreNotFacts
1 month ago
Reply to  Myles Ahead

“… a right to develop their land subject to the fair application of local zoning codes.” This is the exact sticking point in the difference of opinions. The area is zoned for single-family, and the liberals on council want it changed to higher density. If Habitat would just build to the current zoning, there would be no objection.

Factory Working Orphan
Factory Working Orphan
27 days ago

The development isn’t even going to make a pinprick in what is a long-standing problem of too much population growth on the Front Range, and too much liquidity having been injected in to the real estate market over the last ten years, finally spilling out and metastasizing across the entire state. The pot, tech, and NGO/political lobbying industries that are starting to dominate the state’s economy and political direction are simply not conducive to producing sustainable, high-trust, stable communities, as they are parastical in nature and eventually degrade these places to hollowed-out, dysfunctional shells, permanently stuck in a two-caste socio-economic system.

These dysfunctions are going to become even more apparent if the arid West’s de facto climate state continues this 20-year-long dry phase for the foreseeable future.

For all the complaints about NIMBYism, until the chowderheads running the state acknowledge that they encouraged exponential growth without planning for how to manage it in a way that didn’t harm the people and communities already living here, the wrangling over these pointless band-aid solutions is going to continue.

Last edited 27 days ago by Factory Working Orphan
Dean
1 month ago

Mountain View Community Church –
Assessed Tax:$0.00 $0.00 $0.00

This is great, the presumption that Mountain View will carry back financing, thus keep cost down. What people like Perry and now most of city council think what’s the problem- what’s not to like about this? What’s not fair about this program- everybody makes out good?
What our social evenhandedness expert Dave Perry, either naively or deceitfully and so typically seems rather good at, is spin. And this one is at full throttle, with council on the same peddle.
None of them seem to realize the reality of damages from no property taxes. None of them. They just can’t wrap their mind around taxes. A little cost we all pay as necessary, but Perry wants everybody else to pay this bill, cause it’s in their backyard and that’s their problem. Mountain View as a church is a non-profit, and they also are tax exempt according to Arapahoe County assessor. Despite this cooked- up concoction of owning-hold-back-99 year lease back- and of-course keep the status of the already tax -exempt property the same. These new home owners are guaranteed by the county to their effective evenly balanced city and county services. But, Perry states, “he gets it”. No Dave, unfortunately you don’t get it. Council demonstrates with this, they don’t get it. It’s punishment for buying and paying your taxes. These taxes are critical, and high enough for the counties to let you make two payments. Payments that must be paid one way or the other. This is deeper than just a parking problem. Anyone paying their fair share every year does care. With this property tax avoidance scheme, these neighbors have every right to demand a deeper dive from Aurora leadership before this rezoning is completed.

Melissa
Melissa
1 month ago
Reply to  Dean

Just to clarify the real estate tax issue. You are correct that the church will own the land and will continue not to pay real estate taxes on the land. However, the homeowners will pay real estate taxes on the improvement (the home) just like everyone else. The homeowner will own the home and pay taxes on that portion but they do not own the land so they don’t pay taxes on something they don’t own. So, there will be more tax revenue for the City. They will pay their own way just like the rest of us.

Doug King
Doug King
1 month ago
Reply to  Melissa

Thank you ma’am. And so ‘There” mr dean! and guess what … they wont’ be homeless either!!!! and they will be paying taxes…what’s there not to like?

Kimberly Pearce
Kimberly Pearce
30 days ago
Reply to  Melissa

So, duplex owners would not be able to fence-in yards?

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
1 month ago
Reply to  Dean

I am trying to understand why you are getting so upset over someone else’s property taxes.

Jennifer Roberts
Jennifer Roberts
1 month ago

I can understand not wanting to live next to construction. After living in Denver where it never stopped, and having it damage our property to the point it was not livable, I understand that it is a real issue. At some point, though, something is going to be there. And I would much rather have had that construction in Denver be Habitat for Humanity units than the shoddy “luxury” condos that went for over $700,000. Trust me, those are the neighbors you want. Spend more time negotiating for pretty trees in between your property and limits on construction times (not at 6am and not going through 8pm), and NOT blocking your access to things like trash pickup and personal parking for weeks (real issues). Also, insist on keeping your address, and getting clear address signs for emergency vehicles.

Dean
30 days ago

After hearing many of calls from people that live and bought their houses in this area, they are clearly adamant with reasonable explanations and just as important certain expectations to resist this zoning change.  They have a legitimate reason as long-term residential shareholders to keep and protect their quality of living as best as they can. Many claim they have lived there for 40 plus years, I believe this to be true. These owners have made payments for 40 years to own their homes, lots of personal sacrifices along the way. Land rights to clear and clean ownership is something that is and has been very defended doctrine. And this latest hair-brained land rezoning to turn the neighborhood upside down without considering the big picture demonstrates the profound disrespect the council has for this quiet, calm, long-term neighborhood.  
This neighborhood to remain in its current uncomplicated tucked away location has every right to keep it that way. Be that as it may, having to sue the city you live in, may be inevitable. And here we go. This may be one way to stop this over reach by this city council. Denver sued Aurora for another cock-eyed rezoning model two years ago and was successful using the Lewis-Roca firm. As long as this council insist on the belief — that what’s mine is mine- and that what’s yours is negotiable… these measures are needed.     
       
 https://iaals.du.edu/profile/lewis-roca-rothgerber-christiing
https://mslegal.org/2021/08/another-supreme-court-victory-for-property-rights/