The Gates Family Foundation has joined with a collaborative of philanthropic funders to catalyze nearly $25 million in private investment to launch Elevation Community Land Trust, a new community land trust (CLT) that will help secure permanently affordable housing in neighborhoods across metro Denver and ultimately statewide.
Recognizing the need for a strategic, cross-sector intervention around the growing issues of housing affordability in metro Denver and beyond, Gary Community Investments has led an effort to mobilize local funders in raising the capital needed to create a sustainable platform that provides a permanent solution for families and other underserved populations in need of affordable, safe and decent housing choices. The collaborative also includes The Colorado Health Foundation, Bohemian Foundation, The Denver Foundation, Mile High United Way and Northern Trust.
“We view Elevation CLT as an important new tool for partnering with neighbors and local communities to address the dramatic impact that rising housing costs are having on low-income families across Denver,” says Tom Gougeon, President of the Gates Family Foundation. “We also hope this platform can be used effectively in a variety of neighborhoods and geographies across the state over time."
Within the next five years, Elevation CLT’s stewardship will support the creation of more than 700 CLT homes via the acquisition of single-family homes in neighborhoods across metro Denver and land for the development of new construction townhomes and condos. At this scale, Elevation CLT should be financially sustainable within its first five years, and it has the power to become a new platform that can be leveraged to support communities across Colorado.
Rather than being concentrated in a single neighborhood, Elevation CLT will use a “scattered site model” that has the flexibility to scale to any community at risk of gentrification and displacement. To further support low-income families in the communities it serves, Elevation CLT eventually aims to align itself with comprehensive supportive services programs that provide residents with increased access to health care and healthy food, early childhood education, workforce training and placement, and wealth-building opportunities. It will complement other affordable housing efforts being undertaken by public and private organizations at the local and state levels.
“Elevation CLT will help keep families in their homes and communities through the use of the community land trust model, a proven shared-equity tool for low-income communities that develops and preserves permanently affordable housing in neighborhoods over generations,” says Dave Younggren, President and CEO of Gary Community Investments, which includes The Piton Foundation. “CLTs support low-income families in safely bridging the gap between rental housing and homeownership, allowing them to increase their savings and assets, improve their financial literacy and ultimately become more economically self-sufficient. Families with safe, stable housing are able to focus more attention on increasing their opportunities for job readiness, employment, job retention and career development, which all contribute to long-term financial stability.”
Although the majority of initial capital raised is from the private sector, Elevation CLT is being established as a public-private partnership that will rely on capital subsidies and resources from a mix of sources, including the public sector. Elevation CLT is in active discussions with the City and County of Denver as the first Colorado municipality to partner in this effort, and it looks forward to exploring partnership opportunities with other municipalities across the metro region in the future.
Urban Land Conservancy (ULC), a nonprofit hybrid CLT that is aligned with Elevation CLT’s mission, will incubate this new platform and provide the technical assistance needed to steward its successful establishment. Over the next 12 to 18 months, ULC and an interim community advisory committee will support Elevation CLT in establishing its own 501(c)3 community land trust organization with independent leadership, staff and a governing board that includes homeowners, community members, public interest representatives and members of the funder collaborative.
“Forty percent of Colorado’s households are already challenged to make ends meet, and there simply aren’t enough affordable options for them, making this an equity issue,” says Karen McNeil-Miller, President and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation. "Having a home that is affordable and stable is absolutely critical to Coloradans having what they need to be healthy. "
“We know that affordable home ownership is one of the best ways to ensure diverse communities. As Denver’s thriving economy makes it difficult for families of all income levels to stay in their homes, community land trusts are an important tool to address this issue,” says Christine Márquez-Hudson, President and CEO of The Denver Foundation. “The Denver Foundation is proud to support this effort, ensuring that homes stay affordable and people are able to stay in neighborhoods they and their families have been in for generations.”