Urban Land Conservancy celebrates the achievements of our partnerships that create and preserve nonprofit facilities and affordable housing for communities in Metro Denver. ULC’s Monthly Partner Spotlight is awarded to partners who demonstrate the value of collaboration, furthering our mission to improve the lives of Metro Denver residents through our real estate investments and community assets.

Congratulations to our July 2019 Partner Spotlight of the Month: Elevation Community Land Trust!

Access to affordable housing for many working families is scarce across Colorado. According to recent data provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 275,000 Colorado households are spending more than half or their income on housing.

In recent years, there has been a significant push for the preservation and development of affordable rental homes, a necessity amidst Colorado’s housing shortage. However, local municipalities are recognizing the need for increased opportunities for residents to purchase affordable homes.  The benefits of homeownership are significant, allowing homeowners to build equity while oftentimes paying less in monthly mortgage payments than rent.

Permanent homeownership opportunities are what many Community Land Trusts (CLTs) are working to create. Exactly 50 years ago, leaders from the Civil Rights Movement launched New Communities Inc., the nation’s first community land trust in southwest Georgia to ensure economic independence for African American families. Today, there are more than 225 community land trusts in the United States. One of the newest community land trust in Colorado is Elevation Community Land Trust (ECLT). ECLT was established in 2018 by a collaborative group of philanthropic funders as a public – private response to Colorado’s growing affordable homeownership crisis through over $20 million in capital and land investment.

“Affordable housing is a piece of community infrastructure as critical as roads and bridges,” said Stefka Fanchi, CEO of Elevation Community Land Trust. “Colorado needs to ensure that homeownership is within reach for everyone, so that our families have the opportunity to build wealth and thrive along with their communities instead of being displaced and left behind while our economy booms.  Community Land Trusts carve out these opportunities not just for today’s families, but for generations to come.”

With less than one year as a fully staffed nonprofit organization, ECLT is making strides throughout the Greater Denver region. ECLT has acquired multiple properties, hosts regular community outreach meetings with potential homebuyers and has hired six full-time staff members to date.

The first real estate partnership between ULC and ECLT was in December 2018 when ULC acquired a site in the Santa Fe Arts District through the Metro Denver Impact Facility (MDIF). La Tela will be a mixed-use development, including commercial space and 92 permanently affordable for-sale condominiums. By incorporating a 99-year ground lease through the CLT model, ECLT and ULC will ensure the condominiums remain permanently affordable through generations of homeowners, not only the first time home buyers.

“Urban Land Conservancy has long recognized the impact of owning the land for long term community use,” said Debra Bustos, ULC’s Senior Vice President of Real Estate. “Our current role advising and providing technical assistance to Elevation Community Land Trust has provided us the opportunity to partner on critical pieces of real estate that will create affordable homeownership opportunities in areas of Metro Denver where residents are facing the risk of displacement.”

ECLT established its first municipal partnership earlier this year with the City of Aurora. The partnership will allow Elevation to acquire and rehab homes that can be purchased by qualifying residents earning less than 80% of the Area Median Income (equivalent to a household of four earning less than $74,240). This partnership will create permanently affordable homeownership opportunities for 50 households over the next five years.

ECLT is also supporting prospective buyers through the home purchase process by providing financial and pre-purchase counseling, first-time mortgage facilitation, resident stewardship, and home maintenance advice. In addition, ECLT and the City of Aurora will work together to ensure homeowners have access to supportive services in the area such as health care and healthy food, early childhood education, workforce training and placement and wealth-building opportunities.

Following the recent partnership announcement, ECLT celebrated with an open house at their first home, which was put on the market in June. The home is a beautifully remodeled, five bedroom midcentury ranch located. The event provided an opportunity for guests to tour the home, better understand the power behind shared-equity through CLTs and learn about ECLT’s plans to create additional homeownership opportunities in Aurora’s real estate market.

Outside of Aurora, ECLT continues to grow their real estate portfolio, with units and land purchased in Denver (who has committed financial support through a municipal partnership), Boulder, Longmont and Westminster (in partnership with ULC).

ECLT is also working directly with local governments to set homeownership policies that will directly benefit future homeowners and their communities. The organization’s Stewardship team directly engages municipalities, government agencies and local organizations to understand the needs of local buyers, and to educate communities about CLT homeownership and homes – as well as collaborate with governmental funders on creating CLT-oriented partnership agreements.

In partnership with ECLT’s Real Estate team, Stewardship sets initial home prices, teaches CLT Homebuyer Orientations, qualifies buyers and maintains a homebuyer waitlist.  Stewardship also educates and builds pools of CLT-qualified realtors, mortgage lenders, appraisers, title companies and pro-bono attorneys with the end goal of streamlining the buyer qualification and purchase process. Their role continues beyond each home’s closing, as they help buyers navigate everything from refinance, capital improvements and resales.

As their real estate pipeline continues to grow, ECLT is poised to reaching – if not surpassing – many of the predetermined goals the organization was founded upon. In Elevation’s first five years, it is expected to acquire and/or develop 700 permanently affordable homes, serving an estimated 2,000 households. As the ECLT continues to thrive, ULC looks forward to the incredible impact the organization will have on communities throughout Colorado. We expect to partner on many future opportunities with ECLT, and will work together to ensure Colorado becomes a more equitable and inclusive state that provides affordable housing options for all.

“Community Land Trusts are an innovative model for community-led development that rearranges relations of property and power in the place of residence. The foundation for a CLT as well as for other nonprofit developers that operate in a similar fashion is common ground: community owned land that is never re-sold, but put to productive use through long-term ground leasing…. Common ground has operational, ethical, economic, and political advantages all its own. It may be harder to do, but the extra effort is worth it.”

– John Emmeus Davis, Burlington Associates (Nationally recognized Community Land Trust Consulting Firm)

Meet the Elevation Community Land Trust Team

Stefka Fanchi: CEO

As CEO, Stefka sets the tone and strategic vision for ECLT’s developments efforts.  She is a housing advocate at the local, state and national levels.  As a practitioner, she is spearheading the acquisition and development of over 700 permanently affordable homes in the greater Denver metro area and throughout Colorado.

Barbara Navin: Vice President of Stewardship

As VP of Stewardship, Barbara partners with the VP of Real Estate and community funders to ensure ongoing affordability. She leads outreach, education and marketing for Real Estate professionals and homebuyers, and leads stewardship roles with homeowners from application through purchase, refinance and resales.

David Ogunsanya: Vice President of Real Estate

David is the charged with maintaining a steady inventory of for-sale housing.  His role includes identifying communities and implementing a strategy to acquire, renovate and construct homes for affordable homeownership. 

Mercedes Fuentes: Homebuyer Manager

Mercedes serves as ECLT’s primary point of contact with families.  She guides clients through the home buying process.  Her work helps families throughout the Denver metro area and northern Colorado.

Victor Hernandez: Director of Operations

Victor oversees ECLT’s operations, financial management and funding strategy.  His works ensures organizational growth consistent with our long-term vision.  

Tiana Patterson: Public Partnerships & Legal Director

Tiana is responsible for developing, advancing and maintaining municipal and state partnerships critical to the missions of Elevation and ULC. She will ensure the short and long term stewardship of our resources through an appropriate legal infrastructure.