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Denver's low-income homeowners are losing ground, but policies can help stem that loss
Denver, Colorado    
Publication Date
Urban Institute
This white paper notes that Denver's economy is thriving, with unemployment below the national average and wages above those of similar areas, at the same time, 82 percent of Denver's very low-income households are cost-burdened and working class homeowners face rising property taxes. The authors present four policies that Denver and other economical thriving cities are exploring to minimize displacement and other adverse effects on low-income homeowners.

To increase homeownership, the authors suggest financial education and assistance, such as gap funding for downpayments and closing costs. For existing homeowners, the white paper suggests assistance with constructing accessory dwelling units to increase income and offset increased taxes, such assistance could be beneficial loan products, expedited permit reviews, and vetted contractors.

The white paper also suggests property tax abatements to help reduce displacement of long-time homeowners. Such a policy can identify the percentage of property tax increases, maximum household income, and length of residency that would make owners eligible for tax abatement. The authors also suggest an abatement program could be enacted for developers of affordable units in lower income neighborhoods.

The fourth policy presented in the white paper recommends a community land trust program to maintaining long-term homeownership. The land trust, as owner of the land, provides affordable long-term leases to the low-income homeowners. When owners sell their house, profits of the sales resulting from increased property values are divided, the land trust receives some of the money to maintain its program, and the homeowners increase their personal wealth.