Stephen and Michelle Caragol: Let’s look for solutions
Let’s look for solutions
The Iron Horse debacle is very confusing to say the least. The property provides much needed housing for residents of this community who are unable to own a home or even rent or live in a trailer, which seems to be one of the few housing options for the less fortunate.
While most of us in this community don’t worry about where we will sleep or raise our kids, because we have choices, the residents of the Iron Horse are just plain stuck without options.
Why do we think we can ignore these housing needs in our community? Shouldn’t the government provide these services or carry the financial burden or support nonprofits to provide housing? This method is typical in Denver and very successful.
The city is selling the Iron Horse because they don’t want the responsibility, and to shoulder the burden of providing housing for the poor. Did the city speak to nonprofits such as the United Way and LIFT-UP to assess housing needs in this community? I doubt it, because the old “head in the sand” approach seems to be working well for our City Council.
It seems the only source of information about the Iron Horse sale is the newspaper. The closed door approach of keeping letters of intent/interest (from parties interested in purchasing the Iron Horse) confidential is ridiculous, especially when our local government works for the people.
This isn’t Russia or North Korea, where we don’t have a voice. We should demand transparency as members of this community and employers of the government
Waterside Village LLC, where I am the principal, developed a mixed use project at 11th and Yampa (Bamboo Market is on the corner) streets, and the city was quick to require we provide two affordable housing units. This requirement was a money loser, without question, but we obliged.
Now twisting the tables, the city is eager to dump affordable housing because they don’t want the burden. This is confusing, to say the least.
Looking for solutions as opposed to complaining I’ll offer a few ideas for our city representatives:
Ask nonprofits to take the lead to create co-op housing, which is popular on the East Coast. LIFT-UP and the United Way, just to name a couple, could each own four or five units in the Iron Horse to provide short-term housing. Investors or businesses could buy units understanding the units were deed-restricted, and financial returns are nominal, if any. We own a local business and the net effect of lack of housing is employee turnover. Renting the newer building to large employers, which is what is happening now, could provide financial support for community housing options in the older building.
If selling the building is the only option, then impose a deed restriction that requires the Iron Horse is used for affordable housing. Without this restriction, developers will seek to maximize profit, because this is just the way our system and culture works.
Look around for the unseen workers in the warehouse or the kitchen the next time you are in a local store or restaurant. Think about if you were this person and how you would get by. Think about living paycheck to paycheck and not having the opportunity to own a car, and getting up a 5 a.m. in the morning to take the bus from Craig.
Is this good enough? I don’t think so, and now is the time to make a statement that the community is compassionate. Intentionally pulling the housing options for these people in the Iron Horse is wrong.
Stephen and Michelle Caragol
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Editor’s note: This is a follow-up to Jerry Buelter’s last column.