Help is available for west Denver homeowners struggling to stay in their homes

A new program allows them to sell the land under their homes into a land trust and use the cash to pay down their mortgages.

An ADU in Westwood on June 19, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

An ADU in Westwood on June 19, 2020. (Donna Bryson/Denverite)

Donna Bryson. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The city, a community development nonprofit and a land trust have teamed up to help west Denver residents stay in their homes.

During an online forum held Wednesday to announce the Stay in Place Program, West Denver Renaissance Collaborative Director Renee Martinez-Stone said she was concerned that the economic impact of the pandemic would increase the number of people who have to move because they can no longer afford to live in the neighborhoods that her community development group supports.

“Our goal is to get ahead of the foreclosures,” she said, noting that west Denver had been hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis of the 2000s.

The Stay in Place Program is aimed at homeowners facing reduced incomes because of the pandemic or increasing property taxes or other housing costs. They can sell the land under their homes into the land trust operated by the Elevation Community Land Trust. The city is contributing funds for Stay in Place Program sales. Participants could use cash from the sales to pay down their mortgages or build an accessory dwelling unit, and would continue to own the homes on the plots. In a land trust, the land under homes is owned communally and never sold.

To be eligible, a household can’t earn more than 80 percent of the area median income. That limit is currently $78,500 for a family of four.

Martinez-Stone’s collaborative has for several years been developing an accessory dwelling unit project in Athmar Park, Barnum/Barnum West, La Alma/Lincoln Park, Sun Valley, Valverde, Villa Park, West Colfax, and Westwood. Martinez-Stone envisions homeowners in those neighborhoods building accessory dwelling units — ADUs, also known as a carriage houses or casitas — to rent to earn extra income, or to provide housing for growing families. Homeowners who participate must meet income restrictions and keep their ADU rents below market rate, and get access to low-cost ADUs designs created by the nonprofit affordable housing developer Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver and pre-approved by city building regulators, saving architecture and some permitting fees.

The homeowners who choose the ADU component of the Stay in Place Program would work with Martinez-Stone’s collaborative.

Stefka Fanchi, who is Elevation’s president & CEO, said the Stay in Place Program is available now only in west Denver, but she hoped funding could be secured to offer it in other parts of the city.

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