Abigail Acevedo grew up in the Globeville Elyria-Swansea community. She never thought about leaving the area but the predominantly Latino and low-income neighborhoods have seen residents come and go due to displacement and gentrification.
Acevedo isn’t leaving, though. In fact, she’s purchasing a home at an affordable price right on Josephine Street.
The Globeville Elyria-Swansea Affordable Housing Collaborative announced that five new houses are coming to Elyria-Swansea and will be placed in the GES Tierra Colectiva, formerly known as the GES Community Land Trust.
The houses are three-bedroom, three bathrooms, attached townhomes that include parking and a fenced backyard. The main appeal: they’ll cost homeowners $180,000.
“I’ll be the first in my family to own a home,” Acevedo said. “I knew I wanted to become a homeowner ever since I could remember. I also knew that when the time came, I wanted to stay within the GES community. And up until a couple of years ago, I knew that there was no way I could afford a home in the open market…It’s a stressful process but knowing that the outcome will be me staying here with a place I can call home and a place I can call mine, it’s all worth it.”
The GES Affordable Housing Collaborative is composed of several housing non-profits including the Colorado Community Land Trust/Habitat for Humanity Metro Denver, Brothers Redevelopment and the GES Coalition, a neighborhood group advocating for economic, racial, and environmental justice.
The Coalition launched the community land trust in 2017 as a way to promote ownership and land stewardship in the GES area. It was also a way to create affordable housing to keep residents in GES.
“We were really searching for solutions to the issues of displacement,” said Nola Miguel, director of the Coalition. “All of a sudden rents went way up. People who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time… all of a sudden their landlord said, ‘I’m going to sell the house.’ We saw that happen over and over and over again and are still seeing it. So, the land trust is a piece of the answer in figuring out how we address involuntary displacement.”
Since the launch, the land trust has built five homes at affordable rates for GES residents.
Homeownership within the land trust will remain affordable and can be passed down to future generations, building generational wealth and stability, Miguel said. He added that stable housing lets residents explore life.
“If you have stability, you’re not worrying about your next place or, ‘Oh my God, my rent, just got raised another $500,'” Miguel said. “If you’re not worried about that, then you can build out the rest of your life. The neighborhoods of Globeville Elyria-Swansea have historically had high ownership rates and that’s one thing we’ve seen in the last five to seven years. Our homeownership rates have gone down. Having your own home…you’re investing in it, your building equity. It’s so important.”
On a brisk but sunny Wednesday, the community and several officials gathered to break ground on what the Housing Collaborative is calling Josephine44.
Jeff Martinez, president of Brothers Redevelopment, moderated the event and described the new parcel as the Collaborative’s “largest project and first multi-family project to be placed in the land trust.”
Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca said the homes would be “permanently affordable” and that “there are no other affordable units in the city of Denver for sale that are permanently affordable.”
She added, “We are setting a model for efficiency, for sustainability that others should be looking at.”
In Spanish, Raymunda Carreon, a community leader and resident who lives in one of the existing affordable homes, said she hopes more people donate to the land trust, monetarily or through land donation, to address the housing need of the community.
“Queremos tierra!” Carreon and the rest of the residents shouted, meaning, “We want land.”
Miguel said in the future, the Housing Collaborative would like to explore purchasing land for rental and commercial spaces. Those rental properties would be affordable and the commercial aspect would include space for local businesses.
For now, the new homes are being built and should be completed in about six months. The homeowners were already approved for loans and are ready to move in, including Acevedo.
“This community has given me everything,” Acevedo said. “I feel safe knowing my community and that’s why I want to stay within the GES community. It gives me comfort. Everyone is similar to me. We are the working class. And when I decide to have children, they’ll have this home and I’ll be able to measure their heights on the wall.”