The following article is written by JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE Founding Partner Jim Johnson, AIA.
Our increasingly difficult affordable housing problems in Denver and similar cities worldwide are often aided with public-private partnerships between multiple caring parties. Shelter consumes the biggest portion of living expenses for the lower income population, followed closely by transportation costs. When the stars align, as they have at the RTD West-Line Sheridan Station, synergistic solutions can prevail.
Directly adjacent to the transit stop, JOHNSON NATHAN STROHE has designed a 133-home project for Mile High Development, their sixth such effort in metro Denver. Currently in construction, JNS collaborated with Mile High Development, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), Urban Land Conservancy, RTD and the City of Denver. The project includes 114 homes for family income below 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), eight homes for incomes below 40% AMI and 11 homes for incomes below 30% AMI.
“We have found that building affordable housing directly adjacent to transit benefits our tenants. Most families spend over 60% of their budget on a combination of housing and transportation. If we can accommodate tenants in housing with affordable rents and give them the ability to eliminate the need for an automobile, it’s a ‘double whammy’ benefit that increases their spendable income for other things like education, healthy food and a better quality of life. We also often provide Neighborhood Eco (NECO) Passes at our expense, so the tenants can use virtually any form of transit provided by RTD free of charge.”
- George Thorn, President, Mile High Development
RTD supports transit-oriented development (TOD) that encourages a dense mix of uses at a walkable scale within a short walk of a train or bus station. Despite the potential benefit of TOD to affordable housing, city- and lender-required parking often challenges affordability in transit-oriented neighborhoods. Although structured parking is most appropriate for dense TOD, it is also expensive – between $30,000 and $35,000 per space in Denver. Compared to their market-rate counterparts, affordable-housing developers have less margin to afford parking.
Sheridan Station presented a unique opportunity to co-locate affordable housing, transit service and parking to benefit RTD and the housing community.
In 2013, RTD opened the W Line between Denver and Golden, including Sheridan Station and its 800-space parking garage. RTD subsequently agreed to lease Mile High Development a portion of the garage’s empty spaces to help satisfy municipal and lender parking requirements, allowing the development project to proceed at a lower cost to maintain its affordability. Opening in early 2021, the new community will be a synergistic solution to Denver’s social and economic justice challenges around housing and transportation.