Globeville and Elyria-Swansea share community land trust lessons with other Denver residents seeking affordable housing solutions

Aurora, Montbello, Park Hill, Sunnyside, West Colfax and Whittier residents were among those who showed up to learn.
3 min. read
The GES Coalition Organizing for Health and Housing Justice acquired property in Elyria Swansea to help shield residents from displacement, July 26, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The people of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea hope the new homeownership system they are building will be a bulwark against displacement and a model for neighborhoods across Denver and beyond.

The neighbors are getting the message. Audience members at a GES Coalition forum came to the Swansea Recreation Center last week from Denver areas such as Montbello, Park Hill, Sunnyside, West Colfax and Whittier as well as from Aurora. The headliner was a national consultant -- Jason Webb of the Grounded Solutions Network of community land trusts.  But many in the audience of about 40 seemed most interested in hearing from coalition members about their trust.

Karla Loaiza, an organizer in Aurora for the grassroots organization United for a New Economy, said what she heard in Swansea pointed to solutions to problems such as homelessness and gentrification-caused displacement that communities in Aurora face.

"With their head start," she said of the GES Coalition, "we don't have to start from scratch."

Nola Miguel of the coalition said her group was eager to learn from others and to collaborate in areas such as applying for grants. Webb, who ran a trust in Massachusetts and now travels the country helping guide similar projects, noted Miguel's coalition brought him in to work with the board of its own trust as well as speak to the broader community.

"It's not just for GES folks," he said. "It's for everybody. They realize that having shared resources helps everyone move forward."

In a community land trust, the land is held communally and homes individually. Taking the land out of the equation helps put home ownership within reach of low- and moderate-income families. Grants and donations make the homes even more affordable. Homeowners can make a profit when they sell, but have to keep the resale price below the market rate. The trust, in turn, supports members with training and even financial help.

Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighbors have been working on their trust for three years and it may be several more years before it has much land or many homes. The coalition has worked with Brothers Redevelopment, which builds and manages affordable housing and provides other services to low-income homeowners and renters; and the Colorado Community Land Trust, which has been organizing land trusts since 2002, when it started with affordable homes in Denver's Lowry neighborhood.

As part of the compensation for disruptions and dislocations caused by the expansion and renovation of a stretch of Interstate 70 that runs through GES, the Colorado Department of Transportation gave $2 million for the trust. Brothers Redevelopment used some of that money to buy the first trust properties.

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