Colorado Finance and Housing Authority (CHFA) Presents to Council in Conjunction with Littleton Crossing Development

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By Deanna Cook
(Council Study Session ID# 17-25. See More High Density for Downtown Littleton for the back story.)

In a nutshell: CHFA’s representative, Tasha Weaver, made CHFA look foolish.  She admitted they rarely hear from the public and that our opposition, while “unprecedented” and the likes of which CHFA has “never seen before”, was ignored by them in their decision-making. She stated she ‘bundled up’ the Petition and numerous letters and emails and gave them to the CHFA Voting Committee. According to CHFA’s own inside attorney, the Summit application documents provided to the Voting Committee for a final decision did not include our opposition. It did, however, include what CHFA called ‘support’ that CHFA itself sought out and by notifying South Metro Housing Authority which then, in return for hearing about the project, provide a letter of support to Summit.

Weaver confirmed CHFA’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) goals in 2016 were for four specific types of projects for extreme needs such as the homeless, special needs persons, low population areas and disaster area victims. Summit’s project did not fall into any of those categories.  She also confirmed when LIHTC properties are found to be non-compliant after construction and occupied, they have never sued any of those developers or investors. Further, after Summit sells as planned at year 15, there appears to be very little oversight or control for the next 40 years. In this case the original developer and investors will be gone. CHFA looks at ‘vacancy’ rates but no specific low income housing needs. They don’t even investigate what other low income housing already exists in a community. Downtown Littleton currently supports a very high percentage of low income housing.

The City Council advised CHFA its process was “flawed” and essentially chastised it for ignoring the public voice and dropping down a 55-year low income project without involving the City which is tasked with managing the dispersing of socioeconomic properties and zoning and also taking into account that properties like Littleton Crossing may even be exempt from paying sales and use or property taxes to the City.

During council discussion, it was brought up that this piece of property may have been illegally rezoned. The zoning change required an approximately 4 acre plot whereas it is only 43,000 squ ft. The City Council ended with a plan that they would delay as much as possible to review the potential improper zoning issue.

Legal counsel has been retained by various community members – including residents and business owners.

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No Room for Citizen Input–A Tale of Two Authorities

 

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There’s been a lot of discussion about the Urban Renewal Authority, aka LIFT, in Littleton over the past few years. But there is another Authority in Littleton that has pretty much stayed under the radar until now.

South Metro Housing Options (SMHO), formerly known as the Littleton Housing Authority, was created in 1970. Not knowing that much about SMHO other than that they provide and help with low income housing (LIH) in Littleton, we decided to refer to the Colorado Revised Statutes (C.R.S.) to see what the housing authority is all about.

It didn’t take very long to realize that some of the language in the C.R.S. for urban renewal is similar to the language in the housing authority statutes. For instance:

• They are both a body corporate and politic granted public powers in the C.R.S..

• They both can be created with a petition, filed by twenty-five residents of the city, requesting the city council to approve the formation of the authority. Council can deny the petition.

• A resolution approved by council establishes each authority.

• The mayor appoints the members. In other words, they are unelected.

There is one difference between the Authorities that is worth noting. SMHO does not need to have their “plans” approved by the council. They make their decisions and in spite of the good that they do for citizens that need the help, their decisions can impact the quality of life for residents already in the community. LIFT has to have their “plans” approved by the council. This allows for public hearings throughout the process. And, because of Initiative 300, citizens get to ratify any urban renewal plans that come about after the passage of 300. (300 does not have any impact on the current urban renewal plans – it was passed after they were approved.)

What put SMHO on our radar screen after all these years? It is that Summit Development is taking steps to build a 63-unit low income housing apartment building on the west side of Nevada St just north of Main Street. This building could be 100% occupied by Section 8 low income residents. And, because the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority has awarded the builders an annual $1,240,000 tax credit for 10 years, the building will be required to be used for low income housing for 40 years. But wait, there was another agreement between the parties. Summit Development has guaranteed that the property will remain low income housing for 55 years.

The point is that the housing authority is acting autonomously from the city council–as they are allowed to do. Decisions they make, as an unelected body, can have a real impact on the quality of life for those who are current residents of the city. Residents are helpless – they have no voice in the matter. All of this can and was decided without any council input or approval.

Our elected representatives have no power over the authority they created!