Viña project breaks ground, to provide permanently affordable housing through a land trust model

Denver officials joined the Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), Columbia Ventures and Clínica Tepeyac today to celebrate

the groundbreaking of Viña, a 150-unit income restricted apartment development located at 48th and Race. Viña represents the first phase of an affordable mixed-use development spanning six acres across an entire city block in the Elyria-Swansea neighborhood. In addition to providing affordable housing, the project will include the expansion of local healthcare services by Clínica Tepeyac.

“Community- and family-supporting projects like this, located just steps away from our transit system, don’t happen by accident. They are intentional and planned to provide opportunity for the residents here,” said Mayor Michael B. Hancock. “Denver is extremely proud to have made a key land investment here years ago through the ULC, and to continue investing in much-needed affordable homes here that will serve the community for generations to come.”

The City and County of Denver worked in partnership with ULC in 2015 for the swift acquisition of the former industrial site, with a goal of preserving and redeveloping the property for future community benefit. A City loan, totaling $1.5 million, helped make the land acquisition possible prior to anticipated future market rate development forces.

“We share the community’s concerns about families in Elyria-Swansea experiencing involuntary displacement due to the many public improvements planned and under construction in the area,” said Erin Clark, ULC’s Vice President of Master Site Development. “Our goal is to make sure local residents and organizations like Tepeyac have an opportunity to maintain their long-standing roots here and can enjoy the benefits of these community investments without being priced out.”

Developed by Columbia Ventures, Viña will offer units ranging from studios to three bedrooms, with a focus on serving lower income families. Forty-five units will be income restricted to households earning up to 30 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is up to $21,000 for a single-person household or up to $30,000 for a four-person household. Thirty units will be income restricted for households earning up to 50 percent of the AMI, and 75 units are restricted for those earning up to 80 percent AMI.

Viña offers more units at 30 percent AMI than all 19 affordable projects in the defined market area. This range of affordability was reached following a number of community meetings with neighborhood stakeholders to help drive the need for deeply affordable housing options in this part of the city.

“This is an important milestone because it demonstrates the power of collaboration between three distinct partners and the community,” said Dillon Baynes, Managing Partner of Columbia Ventures. “We know that community input and support are critical to our success, and we will continue to partner with community leaders through every development phase.”

ULC will continue to own the land under the approximately two+ acres of the six+ acre site to ensure that the housing, clinic, and retail space in the new building remain permanently affordable and will always serve the local community. Using a land trust model, ULC and Columbia Ventures have entered into a 99-year renewable land lease under the condition that 51% of the housing built across the six-acre site will be affordable to households earning no more than 80% of Denver’s AMI.

The Elyria-Swansea neighborhood is 80% Latino with more than 70% of its residents qualifying as low-income with limited access to healthy food. Clínica Tepeyac is a community health center in Globeville that is currently operating at capacity.

“Many of our patients are essential frontline workers who are an integral part of our economy and live with disproportionate health risks, like COVID-19,” said Jim Garcia, Chief Executive Officer of Clínica Tepeyac. “Our families often need a combination of services and resources that we will be able to offer in this new and significantly larger clinical facility.” 

Public finance partners for the Viña housing development include Denver’s Department of Housing Stability (HOST), Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, and the Colorado Division of Housing. HOST provided a $3,750,000 cash flow loan to support construction.

Viña is the latest city-supported affordable housing development under construction in Denver. A total of 1,808 affordable units that have received city financing are currently under construction at 23 sites throughout Denver. An additional 904 income-restricted units are in the planning stage.