When I got home from vacation, I thought about doing one of those end-of-the-year lists but decided I had done of those over the years at the News. Fun to read; hard to write.
Instead, I figured that what totally made me think about all the time was housing in metro Denver and the face of the city had changed — and not necessarily for the better.
Thank goodness many of us bought a home several years ago. Like many years ago. That is like a new mantra for many people. For anyone living in the Denver metro area, back in the day (like 2008), prices were, um, real. Now, as many of us know, today we could not buy the place where we live. Even back then, apartment rents were do-able, now sometimes a real stretch.
But then came the Great Recession, when deep-pocket buyers scooped up many homes that had fallen into foreclosure. Then, Denver became a “hot” city, where developers began scraping homes in neighborhoods that were quietly tucked away, and replacing small homes with giant homes or big blocks of apartments (drive down Broadway or up Welton Street some day, which are becoming canyons), or people in established neighborhoods moved out because they were bought out when they couldn’t afford the escalating property taxes or rents.
Some 100,000 new people moved into the area in a decade, with a city with no sense of planning with this influx. I don’t blame the new people for moving here; it’s a good place to live, most of the time. But things have gone off the rails. The land has become so much more expensive, not to mention materials and construction (though not always any architect being paid who can be identified).
We now have a city planning department coming up with “area plans” that work from the top down, pointing out weak areas ripe for “development.” (That is, a six-letter word called “scrape.”) You can call it gentrification or displacement, but it’s been a real upheaval. Historic buildings of all eras have been scraped or mangled with new facades. Meanwhile, wages haven’t risen to the level that would allow people to afford the “new (ab)normal” home prices or rents. And those who push for more density seem to think that these places will be affordable – uh, no they won’t. (A friend of mine calls them density bros, and I love that.)
That’s my CliffsNotes version of recent history, as many of us have watched a lot of junk being built – bad design, bad materials, bad construction – and wondering when this will end. Denver right now seems really topsy-turvy to me.
So on the last days of the year, several news outlets have posted information on what’s coming up in 2020 in terms of completed projects, whether residential or commercial.
This one caught my eye in the Denver Business Journal, a blurb on a building called The Pullman:
“The Pullman, a 13-story, 168-unit apartment community just down the street from Union Station, features rents that start at $2,785 per month for 819 square feet. But average units rent between $4,200 and $7,500 — and there are four penthouses that top out at $20,000 per month.”
Nah, I’ll pass. But there are so many luxury apartment buildings around town that this type of project is sort of a drop in the bucket.
Another thing has me concerned: What happened to converting apartment buildings to condos? With all the turmoil over the past few years, there were changes in the construction defects law that seemed to open a new door. Apparently, in a story in Denverite, converting apartments to condos would cost a lot of money to add amenities that apartments might have, and take a lot of time dealing with legal issues because a condo building considered one entity might mean higher taxes. The Coloradan in lower downtown is a condominium building, and a new one called Lakehouse is coming on-line next year in Sloan’s Lake.
My favorite quote in the Denverite story is from Lori Greenly, a banker with a real estate license:
“We all thought 10 years ago that all those apartments that were being built downtown were being built to be turned into condos,” Greenly said. But “nobody’s daring enough to (be) the first guinea pig.”
Granted, the buildings downtown are pricey, but what about other less, expensive apartment buildings that could be converted to a more affordable price? The city’s new Department of Housing Stability has acquired two buildings, one of which will feature condos (the second building is set aside for senior apartments).
Now I understand, I think, but I am still not sure how many people can find a home they can afford, whether a single-family home, a condo, or an apartment they can manage.
Along with a link to the story on condo conversions (or not), there are links to two stories on upcoming projects being completed in 2020, the top 10 of highest-priced home sales in 2019, and the city’s purchase of two new buildings with affordability restrictions.