9 numbers to help you understand Denver’s affordable homes mess

Suburban residential street with row of red brick houses

The problems plaguing Denver’s affordable homes program are complicated to say the least.

9NEWS has more than a dozen stories on the issue, and we field questions from homeowners and viewers almost every day.

If you’ve haven’t heard about this problem, the basic facts are that the city created an affordable housing program in the early 2000s. The Inclusionary Housing Ordinance required builders to designate 10 percent of the condos or houses they built as affordable.

Most of these 1,569 homes were built in Green Valley Ranch, Lowry and Stapleton, but each city council district at least a few.

The people who bought these houses could only sell to other approved buyers for prices set by the city until the affordability restrictions ended, according to the IHO rules.

But that didn’t happen in potentially hundreds of cases.

About one in four houses have problems, according to data from Denver’s Office of Economic Development.

A handful of the problems are easy fixes, but most involve unknowing homeowners and renters who could be forced to leave or sell their homes by the end of 2018.

So, here are nine numbers to help you better understand the situation:

1 — 305 HOMES

That’s home many houses/condos Denver suspects of having problems.

27 units were sold to someone who didn’t qualify175 units might have been sold to someone who didn’t qualify22 units don’t have the proper documentation81 units use a mailing address that isn’t the home address, which means they might be rentals
2 — 26 PERCENT

While the city says three quarters of its affordable housing inventory is problem free, the number of homes that were properly sold is much smaller – at least in Green Valley Ranch.

9NEWS took the 639 income-restricted properties in Green Valley Ranch and eliminated the 221 that went through foreclosure and the 195 that belong to original owners who don’t have any potential violations.

When we did the math, we got 50 homes or 26 percent of the Green Valley Ranch houses in the program followed the IHO rules for buying and selling.

That number is an alarming statistic, but I hope as we work with the homebuyers either some are income qualified or we are able to find other remedies,” OED Executive Director Eric Hiraga said.

A lot of the focus has been on homeowners who say no one told them their house was supposed to come with affordability restrictions.

But the city has a list of 81 homes belonging to qualified buyers that could have unsuspecting renters living in them.

When families buy one of Denver’s affordable homes, they promise to live in the house and not rent it out. These 81 units get their tax document sent to a different address, which could be proof that the owner lives somewhere else.

9NEWS has confirmed three cases where this is happening, and four cases where a home’s tax documents are being sent out of state.


Denver’s 9th city council district, which includes Five Points and Union Station, has the most potential rental problems.

The district has 11 percent of the city’s affordable homes but 32 percent of the rental problems.

9NEWS knows of two condos in Monarch Mills where an original owner is renting their unit for a price that appears to be well above their mortgage.

Other downtown condos with affordable units are

The IHO rules say the city can go after owners who rent their homes for all the money they made above their mortgage and attorney fees.

5 – 71 PERCENT

The 639 affordable homes built in Green Valley Ranch make up 41 percent of Denver’s income-restricted inventory, but they have 71 percent of the suspected improper sales.

The city thinks 143 of the 202 houses that might have changed hands without the proper approval are in Green Valley Ranch.


That’s how many people Denver says it now has monitoring the affordable housing program.

“In January, if you asked me how many people are in our compliance unit, that number was one … ,” Hiraga said. “In addition, we are now doing outreach on future projects coming up.”

7 – MAY 31

That’s the last day for people who own one of these problem houses to sign up for the city’s compliance resolution program.

It gives people until the end of the year to work out a solution to their specific problem with the city. However, homeowners and at least one lawyer who represents them are wary of the city’s olive branch.

The first letter OED sent told people compliance meant either proving they could income qualify or sell their home to someone who did for a price set by the city.

OED is now talking about asking City Council to give them a few more options.

8 – 100 YEARS

Most of the affordability restrictions lift in 15 to 20 years, but a few hundred homes will remain income restricted for at least 100 years.

The Colorado Community Land Trust, a non-profit that manages 200 of these houses, decided to make their properties affordable forever. The trust owns the ground underneath the houses and plans to add another 100 years of restrictions every 40 years.

9 – 1,554 HOMES

That’s the number of homes Denver says should currently be part of its affordable housing program.

If you’re a keen reader, you’ll notice that’s 15 homes less than the number I used at the top.

The difference between the numbers is because the affordability restrictions have actually ended for a handful of homes.

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