Member Spotlight: Denver Housing Authority
Rendering by RATIO Design.
On February 28, Mercy Housing Inc., a leading national affordable housing nonprofit headquartered in Denver, announced that its proposal was selected by the Denver Housing Authority (DHA) through a competitive Request for Qualifications process to build an intergenerational, permanent supportive and affordable housing community along with a health clinic that will be the Denver Metro area’s first to focus on serving American Indian and Alaskan Native (AI/AN) communities. To ensure permanent affordability, DHA will provide a 99-year ground lease to build the development at 901 Navajo Street, a site in Denver’s La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood that was acquired through a partnership between the City and County of Denver and DHA.
The new affordable and supportive community will provide residences for approximately 187 households and will be open to all applicants earning 30–60 percent of the area median income. Approximately half of the apartment homes will give preference to homeless households. It will be co-located with a 19,000 square foot federally qualified health clinic to be operated by Denver Indian Health and Family Services. The clinic will provide high-quality, convenient primary medical, behavioral, and dental care for residents and the larger community as well as host wellness, nutrition, and fitness activities. Mercy Housing will partner with additional resident services providers in Denver, including WellPower, to provide a full suite of wraparound housing stability, case management, mental health, financial and other community services to residents. For more than 40 years, Mercy Housing has integrated health and community services with many of the 350 affordable housing properties that it owns and operates in 20 states. This has proven to help stabilize and support individuals transitioning from homelessness and help low-income families to thrive.
Recognizing the historic displacement of American Indian tribes in Metro Denver and a disproportionate increase in homelessness of American Indian and Alaskan Native people in the area, Mercy Housing Mountain Plains, a regional office of Mercy Housing, will collaborate with Native American Housing Circle (NAHC) to provide on-site direction and support to serve their community in the most culturally inclusive ways.
“The Native American Housing Circle is grateful for the opportunity to partner with Mercy Housing on this project,” said Bill Ziegler (Kul Wicasa Lakota), principal housing consultant with NAHC. “This development will be an important step in the process of addressing the housing disparities that exist within metro Denver’s Native American community. We are hopeful that the success of this project will lead to additional opportunities for NAHC to help our homeless relatives and unstably housed families in metro Denver.”
“The new Navajo Street development is part of Mercy Housing’s unique focus on combating racial inequity and providing inclusive health and housing services that improve the physical, behavioral and emotional health of individuals transitioning from homelessness,” said Shelly Marquez, president of Mercy Housing Mountain Plains. “This new community leans into Mercy Housing’s commitment to not just housing, but also health. Co-locating health and housing offers vulnerable families and individuals the health and stability that helps them to heal and prosper.”
The preliminary designs for the new community also include a fitness center, community cafes that have the feel of a neighborhood coffee shop and a community kitchen that will provide a space for cooking classes and community events. The development will also incorporate a network of green public and semi-private spaces throughout the building that support mental and physical health and will be places where residents can meet neighbors, play, garden or find solitude. The apartment homes and health center will complement and extend the inclusive and vibrant community that DHA has built in the La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“Native Americans suffer from some of the worst health disparities in the world,” said Adrianne Maddux, executive director of Denver Indian Health and Family Services. “Housing is a well-known contributor to health outcomes and a meaningful lever for health equity. We have provided culturally responsive services to the native community for more than 45 years. This opportunity is a positive step in honoring and supporting our native community.”
Mercy Housing will now begin working with Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to secure financing for the development. The tentative start of construction for the 901 Navajo Street site will be Summer 2024. Mercy Housing Mountain Plains owns and operates 3,095 affordable apartments across 41 properties primarily located in Colorado, Arizona, and Nebraska.
According to Erin Clark, DHA’s chief real estate investment officer, “DHA was impressed by Mercy Housing’s innovative proposal for redeveloping the 901 Navajo site from industrial warehouse uses to high-quality, mixed-income affordable housing. And providing direct healthcare services adjacent to regional transit will be a welcome addition to the La Alma-Lincoln Park neighborhood and to the broader Denver community.”
This is the sixth development made possible with land acquisition resources from a bonding partnership between the City and County of Denver and DHA. The “DHA Delivers for Denver” Program (D3) utilizes property tax mill levy revenue from Denver’s Affordable Housing Fund to expedite and expand a pipeline of supportive housing residences.
About Denver Housing Authority
Denver Housing Authority (DHA) is a quasi-municipal corporation with a portfolio of over 13,000 units and housing choice vouchers, providing affordable housing to more than 26,000 very low-, low and middle-income individuals. DHA has transformed public housing in Denver creating vibrant, revitalized, sustainable, transit-oriented, and mixed- income community of choice. DHA’s vision reflects the goal that every individual or family shall have access to quality and affordable housing, in communities offering empowerment, economic opportunity, and a vibrant living environment. Denver Housing Authority’s mission is to serve the residents of Denver by developing, owning, and operating safe, decent, and affordable housing in a manner that promotes thriving communities. DHA has been creating vibrant communities and sustainable neighborhoods since 1938. For more information, visit: www.denverhousing.org.
About Mercy Housing
Mercy Housing, Inc., is a leading national affordable housing nonprofit headquartered in Denver. Established by the Sisters of Mercy in 1981, and in operation in 41 states, MHI has more than 40 years’ experience developing, preserving, managing, and financing affordable housing. MHI supplements much of its housing with Resident Services, programs that help residents build stable lives. MHI serves tens of thousands of people with low incomes, including families, seniors, veterans, people who have experienced homelessness, and people with disabilities.
About Native American Housing Circle
The Native American Housing Circle (NAHC) is a coalition of Native-led and Native- serving organizations who create affordable housing and direct services for Native American people experiencing homelessness and housing instability in the Denver Metro area.
About Denver Indian Health and Family Services
Denver Indian Health and Family Services (DIHFS) is Denver’s only Urban Indian Health Program providing culturally appropriate healthcare for American Indian and Alaskan Native adults, children, and families. We serve primarily the Denver Metropolitan area including Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson and Weld Counties. We are uniquely positioned to meet the health needs of our patients in a culturally competent way.