Most homeowners see the rising prices in Denver as a benefit as they watch their home appreciation increase exponentially. But some are less fortunate: with rising prices come increasing property taxes-sometimes high enough to price longtime homeowners out of the neighborhood.
That’s the dilemma of many in West Denver, who faced property tax increases in January of as much as 15 to 30%, according to the Denver Post.
“In west Denver, you have working-class families who have achieved the American Dream of home-ownership,” Renee Martinez-Stone, director of the West Denver Renaissance Collaborative, recently told the Post. But due to new market forces, she adds, “everything is really destabilizing homeowners in terms of their monthly budgets and the change it’s bringing to their neighborhood.”
As owners of modest homes in this transforming neighborhood seek ways to solve the problem, affordable housing advocates like Martinez-Stone are jumping in to help. Her solution is to help homeowners bring in extra income by renting backyard homes, also known as ADUs (accessory dwelling units), through a new initiative called Single Family-Plus.
Currently, there are nine neighborhoods that allow detached ADUs in the West Denver area targeted by the initiative. “The plan is to connect low- and middle-income households with access to mortgage refinancing and other loans that normally are tough to get from banks for backyard homes,” Martinez-Stone told the Post. “…The program could also streamline the permitting process by offering a half-dozen or so pre-reviewed, quickly adaptable ADU (accessory dwelling unit) designs.” It would find willing contractors and offer “income-based development offsets.”
With such efficiencies of scale, the possibility exists, says Martinez-Stone, to reduce the average cost of building a 600-square-foot unit from $250,000 to $125,000.
For some, such as Miguel Ramirez, 49, of the Westwood neighborhood, it’s the answer to more than one problem. Not only will it help with property taxes, but Ramirez hopes to retire in the next five to seven years and would benefit from the added income.
The new program, he told the Post, “couldn’t happen at a better time for me.”
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