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 October 2018 Partner Spotlight of the Month:    Interfaith Alliance of Colorado!

Interfaith Alliance of Colorado was founded in 1998 by a diverse group of leaders in the faith-based community advocating for representation in the public and political arenas. These leaders felt that “faith leaders” portrayed in the media did not represent their values or beliefs in human rights and equity. Ultimately, the founders of Interfaith Alliance of Colorado believed that faith should act as a positive force in the world, bringing people together from all walks of life to encourage collaboration, strong relationships and the celebration of faith.

Reverend Amanda Henderson is the Executive Director of Interfaith Alliance of Colorado. Amanda is an Ordained Minister in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), where she has served as a pastor, and continues to preach and teach in multiple communities. She is a community leader in Colorado, well known as a passionate and compassionate advocate for marginalized people to policy makers. Amanda’s gifts particularly show tragedy, frequently mobilizing individuals and groups to join together in times of injustice from threats to the Muslim community to recent vigils holding space after mass shootings.

Urban Land Conservancy (ULC) began working directly with Interfaith Alliance in 2016 after partnering to open Colorado’s first tiny home village for individuals experiencing homelessness – Beloved Community Tiny Home Village. Opened in July 2017, Beloved Community was created as an innovative approach to house those experiencing homelessness and currently sits on ULC’s land at the corner of 38th and Blake under a temporary lease, per the City of Denver’s guidelines.

“ULC has been very fortunate to partner with Interfaith Alliance, not only to they bring key community members to important conversations related to creating solutions to issues we are facing in the region, but their ability to build relationships is unique. Beloved Community is a perfect example of their capability in bringing a concept to reality that had not been done before, and has had enormous impact,” states Aaron Miripol, ULC President and CEO.

ULC was pleased to support Interfaith Alliance who played a key role in structuring the new organization, offering fiscal sponsorship, leading fundraising efforts, and the complicated process of permitting a project that lacked a zoning category before they began. Today, they are expanding this model across the Denver metro area and Front Range based on the successful outcomes reported in an independent study conducted by the Burnes Center on Poverty and Homelessness. A second community called the Women’s Village is scheduled to open in Globeville by the end of January 2019.

Most recently, ULC is looking to work with Interfaith’s Congregation Land Campaign, an initiative in partnership with Radian, that is focused on bridging the affordable housing gap through land banking of faith-based land. According to Interfaith, there are more than 5,000 acres of untapped faith-based land in the five county Metro Denver area alone. Interfaith and Radian are currently working with five congregations to assess the feasibility of high density, affordable housing on these sites. Faith communities are mission driven communities who can remove significant cost-burdens from a project, and ensure competition for good properties only falls into the affordable housing and community benefit sector.

Through their network of several hundred congregations, Interfaith Alliance is spreading this vision and supporting communities through the decision making process in partnership with Radian where congregations first receive technical assistance services. The concept then moves through a workshop series that helps clarify who the residents will be, what type of affordable housing is right for them, how to handle the land ownership, and many additional decisions. They then a provide assistance to help the congregation partner identify responsible developers and service providers.

In alignment with Interfaith Alliance of Colorado’s mission to “promote justice, religious liberty and interfaith understanding through building relationships in order to educate, advocate and catalyze social change,” the organization is active in both state and local politics. With the upcoming 2018 election on November 6th, there are multiple ballot measures on both a state and local level that Interfaith is proactively addressing.

On a statewide level, Interfaith Alliance of Colorado has taken a stance of opposition against Amendment 74, which would amend the State Constitution and require property owners be compensated for any reduction in property value caused by state laws or regulations. ULC is also taking an active opposition to the amendment, as we believe its negative consequences in reducing affordable housing and nonprofit facilities will hurt many Coloradoans. Interfaith Alliance believes proposition 74 may be the most significant threat to Colorado on the ballot, handing over our public budgets to out-of-state interests who can sue for any slight to property value.

Interfaith is also strongly advocating for two statewide ballot measures: Proposition 111 and Amendment A. Proposition 111 is an initiative to stop predatory payday lending. These financial products target vulnerable populations with annual percentage rates up to 215%, costing Colorado $50 million per year, and trapping many working families in cycles of debt. Prop 111 would reduce the annual interest rate on payday loans to a yearly rate of 36 percent, requiring them to abide by the same standard as all other lenders in the state.

Amendment A would amend the State Constitution to prohibit slavery and involuntary servitude in every form. In Colorado’s current Constitution, slavery and involuntary servitude is legal as a form of criminal punishment. This was a proposed Amendment on the 2016 ballot (Amendment T), but lost by 17,000 votes. Confusing language was blamed for the Amendment not passing two years ago, as there were no active opponents to the Amendment.

On behalf of Urban Land Conservancy and the countless number of community members and organizations directly impacted by Interfaith Alliance’s work – thank you. We are grateful to have a strong community partner advocating for equity, positive social change and opportunities for all Coloradoans regardless of their beliefs. We look forward to our partnership moving forward, and are excited to witness your positive work as a catalyst for change.