Habitat for Humanity high on Globeville.
Habitat building, renovating dozens of homes in Globeville area.
Habitat playing an advocacy role, without taking a position on I-70 widening.
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver is taking a more activist role in Globeville, a neighborhood where the non-profit group has built and repaired dozens of homes during the past four years.
While Habitat for Humanity is not taking a position on the controversial plan to widen or re-route Interstate 70, the group does want to protect homeowners in the poor, but fast-appreciating neighborhood in Northeast Denver.
“We’re not taking a position on I-70 and where I-70 is placed,” said Heather Lafferty, CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.
“But we have definitely gotten more involved in supporting the neighborhood and residents from an advocacy standpoint,” Lafferty said in a recent interview with Denver Real Estate Watch.
“We’re taking a much more proactive role than we have in the past,” she said.
What that means is that if I-70 is widened and a part of it is buried under ground, as the Colorado Department’sI-70 East proposal calls for, “we want to make sure the effect on families is negligible and mitigated as much as possible,” Lafferty said.
Separately, a grassroots movement, Ditch the I-70 Ditch, was created to oppose the CDOT’s $1.2 billion plan. That group estimates 50 families would be displaced in the Globeville area under CDOT’s plan.
Lafferty said her group has spoken with CDOT not only to provide housing for families that are displaced, but to also focus on those who would be impacted by CDOT’s plan, if alternate routing for I-70 is not an option.
“For example, some people who are now two blocks from I-70, after the expansion could be much closer,” she said.
According to the 2013 U.S. Census data, there are 3,355 people living in Globeville. It has a total of 1,151 housing units.
Globeville is a different place since Habitat for Humanity first planted its flag in the neighborhood in 2012.
“We have watched property values increase in Globeville more than any other neighborhood in Denver,” Lafferty said.
Property values rose 67 percent in Globeville since 2012, about twice as much as the average for the entire city, she said
Since 2012, Habitat has built 40 new homes in Globeville, Elyria and Swansea.
It plans to repair up to 90 more homes by the end of 2017 in those three neighborhoods
“I think the neighbors think we have played a role to help sustain and revitalize the neighborhood,” Lafferty said.
She said more than 50 percent of the residents in Globeville own a home.
“It has high homeownership, but also a high level of need,” Lafferty said.
“That is an interesting combination,” she said. “Globeville is a wonderful and unique neighborhood.”
Many people have lived in Globeville for generations, but don’t have the resources to fix up their homes.
“A lot of people are on fixed incomes or low incomes and don’t have $15,000 to put on a new roof,” she said.
With record home prices being set every month in Denver, there has never been a greater need for Habitat for Humanity, she said.
That is true in Globeville and other neighborhoods and communities where Habitat build and upgrades homes, she said.
“The median sales price of a home in Denver at the end of last year was $344,000 and our median sales price was $194,000,” Lafferty said.
Habitat for Humanity requires 200 hours of “sweat equity,” from anyone buying a home. That includes 40 hours of home education.
Habitat for Humanity also has access to favorable mortgage programs.
“Our default rate is less than 2 percent,” she said.
At the same time, Habitat received three times as many requests for help last year than is typical, she said. And many of those seeking help had higher incomes than is normal.
“If somebody is making 80 percent or 100 percent or more of the area median income and is struggling, you can imagine what it means for people making much less,” Lafferty said.
And it’s not just homeowners. Renters also are being squeezed.
“We are hearing real stories from people who were doing OK and meeting their monthly rents,” until their rents were jacked up, she said.
“All of a sudden they get a letter from their landlord saying their rent is going up $200, $300 or even $500 month.”
Those rent spikes in many cases mean families must move.
“We find families moving to find little cheaper rents,” she said.
“It is expensive to move and it has an instability impact on the children. When they are uprooted and go to another school, they fall behind.”
Habitat for Humanity is not just in Globeville, of course.
For example, its Sable Ridge Community, east of Globeville in Montebello, ultimately will provide 51 tons homes near I-70 and Tower Road.
Habitat bought that four-acre site out of foreclosure in late 2011.
“We did more than 30 charrettes and community meetings on Sable Ridge,” she said. “The community really had a lot of input in the design and they are very proud of it.”
Habitat also plans 63, energy-efficient homes on two square blocks on the former Sheridan Elementary School site in the city of Sheridan
Sheridan Square, near Federal Boulevard and south of Hampden Avenue will provide permanent housing for 130 adults and 225 children.
“It also will generate $77,000 in new property taxes annually, since the school didn’t pay property taxes,” Lafferty noted.
“We are just getting the final PUD and expects to break ground later this month,”she said.
The official ground breaking for Sheridan Square is scheduled for near the end of July.