Y.I.M.B.Y. Yes In My
Back Yard. The new agenda for affordable housing is to convince people that
housing is not a luxury but a right, and that housing of mixed incomes and uses
is desirable for more efficient economies. Everyone has a place called
This premise is a far cry from the protectionist
presumptions of many owners of real estate. For them, the practice of sharing
their neighborhoods is 'N.O.P.E. (Not on Planet Earth).’ This is a long-term
strategy of gated communities, to sell only to specific income levels and to
protect the size and nature of their neighbor's parcels. The problem with these
exclusive communities, as Douglas and Arapahoe Counties discovered, is there is
no one to provide basic services. Why is it that in Boulder County they devised
a means to offer inclusionary zoning in all communities? Do you think that they foresaw the housing
crisis would impact all of the people living in Boulder County and not merely
the lower tier of the economy?
Let's shift to Denver and investigate the market economy as
determined in the 2006 Denver Housing Analysis. Page 1 of Section V reads, “Denver's
rental market is affordable to most of Denver's renters, and renter's earning
more than $20,000 per year have an adequate supply of rental units to meet
their affordability needs." The report goes on to stipulate that,
"Denver's lowest-income renters make up 41 percent of Denver's rental
population, and 25,000 of these households need some form of assistance or
The report continues talking about a great chasm for those
who are seeking rental housing:
"There were two units of housing available to these households
because the rest were occupied by higher income residents." Where are the
rental units located for the lowest tier of the economy? They are in the East
Central and Northwest Denver communities, the BBC Research and Consulting
Does it make sense in America to create favelas? These are the
communities in Latin America, and elsewhere abroad, where the poor live in
squalor. For healthy, thriving communities and urban growth to work, people
have to live together, sharing the gifts that each citizen and neighbor has to
Page 13 of the same study reports a gap of 24,000 affordable
units for households with incomes from $0 – 19,999 per year, and a surplus of
50,000 units for households from $20,000 – 39,999 per year.
The Denver Housing Plan of September 2008 proposes to build
5,500 units of housing. One official of the Human Services Administration remarked
that, "this was wonderful news, because over the next decade they are
committed to building 5,500 units and 3,000 of them for the lowest income.”
How is this arithmetic possible? Can we believe that
creating one-eighth of the 41,000 units of housing for the lowest income will
benefit Denver? The recently issued Denver Housing Report generated the
projected number of housing units needed to fill the gap in demand. In places
like Glendale, the affordable units that were located there on two sites were converted
to condos and the affordable units were removed from the market.
In Denver, again, one woman who is retired on a Veterans
Administration pension, said that she had been forced out of the affordable
housing that was, to be sure, substandard, had to move into her garage with her
dog. This was the second time the elderly woman was forced to abandon her home.
In the process of living in this condition, which, if you have ever tried this
life, is unbearable, the garage with all of her personal property burned.
She lost everything.
She was forced, then, to live out of a car and attempted to
salvage her remaining life. No one should grow old and wither under the weight
of foreclosure, gutting apartments and turning them into condominiums, and
feeling that there is no place left to turn for affordable housing.
The rental market for the next decade has been selectively
created and developed to drive out the poor, and with an element of derision,
officials and the public alike say that the market is over saturated with
people who pay little in tax revenue.
The problem with that conclusion is that we are
interdependent. When one of us dies, as have the 150 homeless whose names were
read in a solemn ceremony at the City and County Building on December 18 at
5:30 p.m., we cut off not merely those people but everyone remaining who is
related, whether as families, friends or neighbors.
Taking a look at the foreclosure crisis, the future is grim.
Reports indicate that monthly mortgage resets of rates project a growing number
of adjustable rates that are losing ground through the next three years. The
mortgage crisis may top $30-billion. Credit Suisse, a major financial services
company heavily involved in the mortgage industry, has stated this in a study
by R. Cestero at an Enterprise Foundation Conference on November 19, 2008.
Page four of the Power Point presentation portrayed a stark
graph depicting the increase of foreclosures in what they refer to as subprime,
which may become as high as $20-billion by 2011. These are numbers and markets
that will be reset to reflect the already swelling numbers of households from
1.2 million currently to three times as many households by the time the disaster
reaches its nadir.
The presentation also indicates that 60 percent of all
households that have ARMs, or Adjustable Rate Mortgages, will end in
foreclosures. Where do you think these people will live?
In an interview with a state official, that official
acknowledged that a high percentage of those losing their homes would be
looking for rental units. A number of the lower income persons will be moving
in with family or friends, or with no other option, become homeless. These
people will be driven from their local communities. What is the emotional fall
out from these alarming circumstances, and what does this forecast for the
health and welfare of the community?
These are some possible outcomes: increased blight, which
means abandoned housing. This can be seen everywhere throughout the state. The
local economy will continue to lose revenue. "40.6 million homes in
neighborhoods surrounding foreclosed homes will suffer decline, as there is a $352-billion
drop in property values and loss of $4.5-billion in property taxes," according
to the Center for Responsible Lending.
What the economy must remedy is keeping people in their
homes. Preserve affordable housing, first and foremost. Create a land bank by
keeping properties and people housed. Renovate and sell rental buildings and
vacant properties. Community stabilization begins with keeping people at home
in their neighborhoods. For these tasks to be accomplished, public and private
policymakers, who oversee and influence the political, economic and, thus,
housing and labor markets, must respond to those who are most vulnerable by
facilitating living wages and affordable housing through community partnerships
that instill confidence in all of Denver’s neighborhoods.