Robert C. Larson Awards 2017 Finalist: Denver, CO
July 17, 2017
The City and County of Denver’s Housing Development Division, along with the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Enterprise Community Partners, and several other investors partnered to establish the first affordable housing Transit Oriented Development (TOD) acquisition fund in the country. The purpose of the Denver TOD Fund is to support the creation and preservation of over 1,000 affordable housing units through strategic property acquisition in current and future transit corridors.
The Denver region is in the midst of a multi-billion dollar expansion of its transit system. Initially approved by voters in 2004, the expansion envisioned in the FasTracks plan over the next 20 years will ultimately span eight counties and include 122 miles of new commuter rail and light rail, 18 miles of bus rapid transit, 57 new transit stations, expanded park and ride capacity, and improved suburb-to-suburb bus connections.
This expansion comes at a critical point in the region’s development. Over the last decade, jobs continued to shift away from the city center, as the urban core shed employment and net job gains concentrated more than 10 miles away from downtown. Population growth also spread beyond the city’s borders. Between 2000 and 2012, the metro area experienced a rapid 20% increase in its population, and more than two-thirds of that growth occurred outside the region’s two biggest cities of Denver and Aurora. In those same 12 years, the number of residents living below the federal poverty line outside of Denver and Aurora climbed by 131%. By 2012, nearly one-half of the region’s poor lived in outlying suburban communities.
The partnership of government, quasi-governmental organizations, banks, nonprofits and foundations is a critical component of the Denver TOD Fund. The Denver Fund was capitalized at $15 million, but has now evolved to a $24 million in total loan capital. This revolving loan fund will make capital available to purchase and hold sites for up to five years along current and future rails and high frequency bus corridors across the Denver metro region. The $24 million investment will leverage over $500 million in local economic development activity, serving many economically challenged neighborhoods in Metro Denver with construction and permanent job creation.
The Fund will also directly benefit low-income households that spend, on average, 60% of their gross income on housing and transportation expenses combined. By controlling these expenses and providing access to quality, environmentally-sustainable housing, the TOD Fund will make it possible for families to build wealth and access employment and educational opportunities. It will also provide employers with access to an expanded workforce.