An affordable home in Stapleton on April 18, 2017.
It’s been more than six weeks since Denver officials mailed letters to 301 homeowners officials identified as living outside the rules of the city’s Affordable Housing Ownership Program in one way or another. Those letters offered the recipients the opportunity to work with the city to get on the right side of regulations or risk “further legal recourse.”
So far, 149 homeowners have responded to the city. Just 14 have resolved their issues. Eleven provided documentation proving they meet income qualifications to own an affordable home and the other three cleared up clerical issues. None of the 149 people reached has agreed yet to sell their home to an income qualified buyer, according to the city.
The May 31 deadline to sign up for the program — or face less friendly contact with municipal officials — looms.
“There is still time to enter into conversation with us,” Denver economic development spokesman Derek Woodbury said last week.
The city is using a variety of tactics to reach the remaining 152 homeowners believed to be violating program rules. City staff are making phone calls and knocking on doors, Woodbury said. City Council members and nonprofit housing partners are helping get the word out.
The city has organized events inviting people to drop in for “office hours” and talk about the program, compliance and enforcement. The final two of those events are coming up this week: 3 to 6 p.m. on Friday at the Carla Madison Recreation Center, 2401 E. Colfax Ave.; and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday at the Arie P. Taylor Municipal Center, 4685 Peoria St.
“A lot of individuals have questions,” Woodbury said. “They can meet with staff one on one.”
At least some homeowners have received legal advice not to sign on to work with the city — at least not yet.
Attorney Robert McGough is representing eight homeowners who bought deed-restricted affordable homes without knowledge that the homes had income restrictions. All of them made too much money to qualify for the program in the first place. They fall into a group of 196 homeowners the city has identified as “not appearing to be income-verified” for the program.
“I have recommended to them not to participate in the program until I have a better sense what options the city might offer them,” McGough said. “The only other option that the city has made available that I am aware of — that they have talked about publicly — is selling the home.”
With the program also putting limits on how much a home’s value can appreciate, and how much an owner can sell it for while the deed restrictions are in place, McGough said the sale option puts his clients in position to “incur substantial losses” after paying market value for the houses they bought.
Four or five people call McGough every week for advice on the situation, he said. If they meet the following three criteria, he recommends they skip hiring a lawyer and work with the city: They were income qualified when they bought their home or at some point after they moved in; they paid a below-market price for the home in accordance with the city’s maximum resale pricing rules; they don’t mind selling the house at a depressed price or staying in it until deed restrictions expire.
For those that don’t meet the criteria, McGough said options remain open.
“All of my clients want to work with the city to come with some sort of agreement,” he said. “To a person, they do not want to bring litigation but all of them have to reserve that right, obviously.
Reader support helps bring you quality local journalism like this. Please consider becoming a subscriber.
Your first month is only 99 cents.