Two income-restricted North Cap Hill housing complexes would be renovated and preserved if City Council approves loans

The proposed Department of Housing Stability loans would revamp units and fix building systems at the Argonaut-El Tovar Apartments and the Drehmoor Apartments.
4 min. read
The Argonaut apartment building at Colfax Avenue and Grant Street. April 25, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Denver has celebrated the openings and groundbreakings of several affordable housing projects in the last few months.

In Central Park, two buildings with a combined 217 units opened in mid-April for those making less than 30% of the area median income up to 60%, which for a family of three ranges from $31,650 to $63,300.

An industrial site in Lincoln Park will be turned into a health clinic and 187 units of income-restricted housing for Native American and Alaskan Native residents transitioning out of homelessness. AMI levels are also between 30% and 60%.

The FreshLo Hub in Montbello celebrated a groundbreaking in March and that development will bring 97 units of housing for those making 50% AMI to below 30%. Also in March, a 56-unit affordable, supportive housing development opened in Five Points for youth ages 18-24 who are experiencing homelessness or transitioning out of Denver's foster care system.

But building new affordable housing complexes isn't Denver's sole focus in trying to address its housing needs. City agencies are also working to preserve existing affordable housing options.

The Drehmoor apartment building on 19th Avenue in North Capitol Hill. April 25, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

As part of that effort, the Department of Housing and Stability has proposed two loan agreements to renovate and rehabilitate two existing income-restricted buildings in North Capitol Hill. The proposal passed through the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee on Wednesday.

"When you think of affordable housing, lots of times new construction comes to mind, building new units and doing groundbreaking for new units but what's equally important is preserving the existing stock of affordable housing that's out there in our community," said Derek Woodbury, a spokesperson for HOST. "As properties age, it's important to make renovations and reinvestments to protect and preserve those properties and in essence to continue the affordability well into the future."

The first proposal focuses on the Drehmoor Apartments located at 215 East 19th Ave. The four-story building has 75 one-bedroom units with one unit being used as an employee unit. All of the rental units are for those making at or below 30% AMI. For a single person, 30% AMI is $24,650.

The second proposal focuses on Argonaut-El Tovar Apartments located at 1505 N Grant St. The property hosts two buildings, a three-story and five-story, with 51 studios and 58 one-bedrooms. One apartment is a manager unit. These units are also for those making at or below 30% AMI.

The Argonaut apartment building at Colfax Avenue and Grant Street. April 25, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Besides providing deeply affordable units, both properties also offer social services programs and on-site case managers. Those services are offered by the property manager, Rose Community Management.

Both projects include updating the insides of the buildings; both were built in the early 1900s. The last time they were renovated was around 2007, according to Justin Hill, a housing development officer with HOST.

Hill said both projects would address in-unit repairs, such as new countertops and cabinets; updating common areas to make them more accessible; and fixing building systems like the elevators.

Using the property tax portion of the Affordable Housing Fund, HOST is proposing a loan amount of $725,875 for the Drehmoor Apartments and $1,165,364 for the Argonaut-El Tovar Apartments. The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of the year. Within the loan agreements there's a 60-year rental and occupancy covenant.

"These are large legacy affordable housing projects in the city and we're keeping the affordability going 60 years into the future," Woodbury of HOST said. "They are also deeply affordable units at 30% AMI. That's a real hard population to serve as far as a project penciling out and a developer being able to maintain affordability. So, we're really excited to serve where there is the greatest need."

The Drehmoor apartment building on 19th Avenue in North Capitol Hill. April 25, 2023.
Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite

Both housing complexes receive assistance from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

At the committee meeting Wednesday, Hill said none of the residents would be displaced in the renovation process. He added that any in-unit work can be done while residents are inside the home.

Both proposals passed through committee unanimously and both should appear before council in the upcoming months.

Councilmember Robin Kniech emphasized the preservation aspect of both projects.

"People ask us all the time why we're always building new affordable [housing] instead of preserving, so let's make sure we're telling them our story," Kniech said. "Let's refer to these as preservations. I don't think we use that word and we call it rehabilitation, but I think it's important to say what we're doing. We're saving 182 affordable homes from displacement and we're ensuring their long-term affordability."

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