Although Denver boasts some of the strongest big-city real estate stats in the nation—see "Your Home Is Worth More Than You Think" on page 70—the Mile-High City has still been touched by the ongoing housing crisis. In fact, several Denver communities, particularly around the city's perimeter, have been hit hard by foreclosures.
Denver's 2008 foreclosure rates were down 12 percent from the previous year, but that welcome news doesn't erase the steady increase in mortgage defaults between 2000 and 2007, which left lingering trouble spots. While much of the city looks strong—Highland, Montclair, and Wash Park are among the areas faring well—those that were already struggling continue to show signs of disrepair. In neighborhoods such as Globeville in North Denver and parts of West Colfax's Villa Park, bank takeovers have created sizeable clusters of vacant, neglected homes that are easy targets for criminal activity and urban blight. "When you have empty properties, you have people using them for drug houses and meth labs," says city councilman Paul López. "We have to come down on property owners and banks that are letting these neighborhoods come into such bad shape."
The issue has prompted local advocacy initiatives such as Extreme Community Makeover, an offshoot of Denver's Confluence Ministries. With 1,850 volunteers in tow, the organization helped revitalize 36 blocks of the West Colfax neighborhood in 2008, including home renovations and graffiti removal. "We want to provide hope for the Denver community—to help people see the value in their properties in order to prevent foreclosures," says Laura Kindregan, a founding member of the project.
To help revamp distressed areas, the Denver Office of Economic Development has implemented the 2009 Neighborhood Stabilization Program, an emergency assistance plan to acquire and redevelop foreclosed properties. The plan also aims to funnel millions in grant money into communities with the greatest need. "If we let our neighborhoods go into disrepair, we create a false image of what our communities truly stand for," López says. "As a city we can do much better. We deserve much better."
The outpouring of community aid and emerging city policies appear to be reversing the recent decline in certain residential pockets of Denver. "We need to help those in need become more aware of the resources available to them," says Angela Bomgaars, director of Extreme Community Makeover. "Most of all, people need to learn how to be good neighbors to each other."