Read the Guest Opinion in the Daily Camera here. Copied below in its entirety:
This artist’s rendering shows the proposed Attention Homes project at 1440 Pine St. in Boulder. (Courtesy Attention Homes)
If the city of Boulder agrees to provide $2 million from its affordable-housing fund to help build the proposed homeless young adult housing facility at 1440 Pine St., it will unwittingly participate in a huge transfer of public funds to a private equity firm and the First United Methodist Church.
The proposed $12 million, 40-unit Attention Homes homeless young adult housing facility at 1440 Pine St. is a mistake for many reasons but the financial windfall to private interests — and the enormous costs — are particularly worthy of scrutiny.
If built, nearly all of the $12 million would come from public-use dollars — $2 million from Boulder affordable-housing funds and $9 million from federal low-income housing tax credits, made available through the Colorado Housing Finance Authority (CHFA).
These funds will generate significant financial profit for Gardner Capital, the for-profit private equity firm developing the project, and would result in the transfer of public dollars (and a huge financial windfall) to First United Methodist Church, which owns the land on which the facility would be built. Here’s the breakdown:
1. $1.5 million in management fees for the private equity firm Gardner Capital.
2. The Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) will be a separate revenue stream for Gardner Capital. It can buy and sell the $9 million in LIHTC if Colorado Housing Finance Authority approves the application.
3. Gardner Capital promised to pay for and manage renovation of the six existing church-owned buildings on the north side of the block. Given these buildings’ old age and historic significance, renovations will be very expensive — a million dollars or more, perhaps? The church, which owns and rents out these buildings, will benefit handsomely.
4. The church will benefit from a revenue stream from the development: rent revenue from parking spaces and from the residential units in the building.
5. The church will own outright the 1440 Pine St. building — built at the public’s expense — when all is said and done.
The $12 million price tag is nearly three times the $4 million it cost Bridge House to buy land and build a 40-plus-bed transitional housing facility at 47th and Arapahoe. Why is this similarly-sized project so expensive? Why are the developer and the church in such a hurry to make this happen? Perhaps they know that City Council won’t allow the public to be fleeced.
The developer is asking for numerous and significant waivers to city design guidelines. They quadruple the number of allowable dwelling units and provide half the number of required parking spaces. The proposed building itself violates nearly every design guideline laid out by the city.
I trust City Council will not let private interests pocket public funds. City Council must slow down this train — just as it has with the proposed EastPointe Apartments — rather than let the financial interests of Gardner Capital, a private equity firm, and the landowner drive the process. Let’s not let the tail wag the dog.
These powerful interests want to convince you that there are no downsides to the proposed project. That just isn’t true. Here’s what they aren’t telling you. Only 10 of the 40 beds in the proposed facility are guaranteed for Boulder homeless young adults. One hundred percent of the young people who would live in this proposed facility have experienced trauma and many of them have untreated mental health and substance abuse issues. It’s worth asking if downtown Boulder is the right location for young adults with these challenges.
I urge City Council to act in the public’s interest and set out the following requirements: the size, scale, design and purpose of the building must reflect the existing land-use code; there must be neighborhood-approved management plans and operating agreements; and Gardner Capital and its partners must submit a written management and operations statement to Planning Board and City Council that articulates exactly how this facility would operate. It is only then that Planning Board and City Council can determine whether to approve this facility or not.
Write to City Council at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell them you don’t want your dollars spent to enrich a private equity firm.
Sarah Silver lives in Boulder.
Sadly, the homeless shelter / services industry here is driven by Big Money, and almost all of the local do-gooders see nothing wrong with giving a $300,000 apartment to an 18- to 24-year old kid with a history of sketchy behavior.
BTW, there are far more than 40 young adults roaming the streets of Boulder, CO; what does Attention Homes propose to do with all of the others?
I’m sure someone will be working on a plan to exploit them for financial gain, also . . .