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Denver’s Affordable Homeownership Program Continues to Improve

Denver’s Chief Housing Officer reports to Audit Committee on the many improvements being made to ensure residents aren’t displaced and affordable homes are preserved for the future

In response to its second program audit in just eight months, Denver’s Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher today briefed the Denver Audit Committee on the many ways her office is working to resolve housing compliance matters while adopting procedural improvements.

The vast majority of income-restricted homes established with assistance from the city are in compliance with their affordability restrictions. A total of 1,495 affordable homeownership units have been established through large-scale development agreements, the former Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO), or rezoning agreements that predate the IHO. Of these, 1,371 homes, or 92 percent, are in compliance with affordability restrictions.

“We take this audit very seriously, and there are clearly some recommendations that are a valuable addition to our current efforts to improve our operating standards and preserve affordability in our homeownership program,” said Fisher. “The auditor pointed out several items that we have already initiated. However, we do disagree with some of the recommendations outlined in this report, as they are not allowed under state law, involve contractual relationships to which the city is not a party, or other significant reasons.”

“Our affordable housing program provides a critical path for residents to live and stay in Denver and I cannot stress enough that the city is dedicated to preserving and protecting our entire portfolio,” added Fisher. “That’s why we have additional paths for homeowners to come into compliance.”

Last year Denver Economic Development & Opportunity (DEDO) notified 306 owners of covenant-restricted homes that they may be out of compliance with affordability restrictions. In order to support a path to bring homeowners back into compliance and preserve affordability, DEDO launched a Compliance Resolution Program and an Affordable Homeownership Recovery program. To date, 59 percent of the 306 homes have been cleared of any suspected issues and have been confirmed to be in compliance with affordability requirements established per covenant. This includes 30 households that have been cleared since the earlier housing audit was completed in December 2018.

At today’s Audit Committee meeting, DEDO agreed with six of the 12 recommendations provided. There are several factors accounting for why some of the recommendations have not been adopted by DEDO, including:

  • Recommended action has already been identified, initiated and completed
  • Disagreement whether the action aligns with program goals and desired outcomes
  • Recommended action does not effectively accomplish a program goal
  • Action cannot be legally implemented, as it pertains to foreclosure matters that are governed by Colorado state law
  • Action is not possible due to contractual relationships to which the city is not a party; DEDO cannot pursue express regulatory authority on such matters

“Despite what was reported by the Auditor, our staff does conduct annual reviews of our homeownership program, but not in the specific manner that was suggested today,” said Fisher. “We are very committed to the administration of our affordable homeownership program and the preservation of affordability, and we always welcome any assistance in ensuring that our programs and investments bear a strong standard of excellence.”

Today’s audit was initiated just weeks after the completion of the 2018 housing audit. Beginning in early 2019, DEDO staff has been implementing recommendations from the first audit while concurrently working with Auditor’s Office staff on the secondary audit. DEDO has successfully completed seven of the nine recommendations from the 2018 audit and is in the process of completing the remaining two recommendations.