Homebuilder Forest City Stapleton celebrates building obligatory affordable housing

Forest City has built 83 percent of the housing planned for Stapleton but only about half of the for-sale affordable housing that’s supposed to be there.

Councilperson Christopher Herndon speaking in front of a Stapleton home. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)
Councilperson Christopher Herndon speaking in front of a Stapleton home. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)
Councilman Christopher Herndon speaking in front of a Stapleton home. (Megan Arellano/Denverite)

On Thursday, Councilman Chris J. Herndon celebrated homebuilder Forest City inching closer to fulfilling their development agreement with the city.

“I can not overstate the challenge with affordability in our city,” Herndon said. “I want to thank Forest City in their partnership for the vision for Stapleton after we got rid of the old airport and decided what we’re going to do with this community.”

It’s been almost 16 years since construction began in Stapleton, and at last count, Forest City has built about 83 percent of the 8,000 or so planned houses for sale. Ten percent of them are supposed to be affordable houses, per an agreement between Denver, Stapleton Development Corporation and Forest City. But of all the for-sale housing built so far, just 5.5 percent of it has been affordable housing as of the end of 2016.

So what’s the hold up?

“Even though Forest City subsidizes every [affordable for-sale unit of housing] the builders still have to go out and get their financing,” said Tom Gleason, vice president of public relations for Forest City. “There have been a number of times where they haven’t been able to get the financing to move to their next phase until they’ve completely sold out a certain percentage of their first phase. ”

There’s also the matter of income restrictions for would-be affordable homeowners. This housing is for people earning up to 80 percent of area median income, or $57,680 for a family of three. Gleason said this means that Forest City is targeting a “narrow slice of the income levels.”

As to why we’re talking about this now, Gleason says it’s because the need has gotten so acute.

Garrett and Taylor Norville are among the lucky ones to secure one of Stapleton’s affordable houses. Without this house, they say they’d probably still be renting.

“We definitely would not be able to afford to buy, especially in Stapleton,” Taylor Norville said. “House prices in Denver are atrocious, and so I’m just so thankful for this program.”

“We’re very blessed to be a part of the whole process,” Garrett Norville said. “The whole process has been an adventure that took about 10 months.”