In one of the fastest-growing cities in the West, with a population that has jumped by more than 100,000 people in just the last seven years, Denver housing is a painful subject.
Statistics show that the average price of a home in the Mile High City is now at or above $400,000, while average monthly apartment rents are starting at $1,500.
Those numbers daily challenge middle income residents, some of whom ultimately decide that Denver is simply too expensive of a city to stay in.
But Denver city leaders, hosting an annual summit devoted to housing, say they have made progress on an issue that is similarly challenging city officials across the country.
Mayor Michael Hancock, addressing builders, investors, and community leaders attending the conference, officially called “Building Opportunity: A Solutions Forum on Housing,” said the best way to approach the problem is to think big.
Hancock noted that five years ago, Denver set out to build 3,000 new affordable housing units throughout the city, a goal that has since been reached.
That effort was paid for out of a housing fund that currently is dedicating more than $150 million to future housing construction.
Even so, Denver officials acknowledge that despite such progress, some 107,000 households in the city are today categorized as “housing cost-burdened,” meaning that 30 percent of income in those households goes for housing and utility costs.
At the same time, around 51,000 Denver households are regarded as “severely cost burdened,” with more than half of the household’s total income going for housing and utility costs.
Frank Nothaft, chief economist for the Irvine, California-based Lore Logic, a real estate company, said rising home prices, combined with an increase in borrowing costs, could increase the average monthly mortgage note both in Denver and across the country by 20 percent.
“The inventory of homes available for sale in the market is really, really low,” said Nothaft, adding that the home price index nationally may jump by 6 percent between now and 2019, with Denver experiencing a 7 percent increase.
By Garry Boulard
Arizona and Colorado have posted strong personal income growth numbers since the end of the Great Recession, with New Mexico somewhat lagging behind with a just under 1 percent growth rate in the last decade.
These are the numbers just compiled by the Pew Charitable Trust, using surveys on income growth trends charted by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
The report, entitled State Economic Growth Uneven Since Recession Began, also shows that North Dakota has been the state with the fastest-growing rate of personal income, expanding by 3.6 percent.
Other top growth rate states include Texas and Utah, both at 2.6 percent; and Washington with 2.4 percent.
The overall growth rates of these states, says the Pew report, “matched or beat the historical U.S. pace” usually seen in personal income numbers coming out of a recession.
States with the lowest income growth rates during this same time include Louisiana and Alabama, both with 0.9 percent increases; and Mississippi with a 0.8 percent increase.
In a surprise, Connecticut posted the slowest growth rate of any state in the country at 0.6 percent. That number, according to Connecticut officials, is partly due to a loss of insurance jobs through telecommuting and outsourcing.
The Pew report notes that personal income drastically declined in “almost all states in 2009 during the depths of the recession,” and tumbled again in 2013 “after taxpayers shifted income to avoid a potential tax hike.”
But the good news recorded in 2017 shows that almost every state experienced some level of recovery, with Nevada leading the pack at 4.5 percent.
By Garry Boulard
Operating out of a one-story building opened in 1962, and challenged by a large number of facility issues, officials and teachers with the Laguna Elementary School have long been advocating for a new school.
The current building, according to a 2007 facilities report, has for years been burdened with a leaking roof, and both plumbing and heating system deficiencies.
That same report indicated that it would cost at least $570,000 to repair the structural issues in a building that is already nearly 60 years old.
Now the Laguna Department of Education has announced that federal funding to the tune of $26.2 million has been secured through the U.S. Department of the Interior to build an entirely new school.
Like the current facility, the new school will house kindergarten to 5th grade students who are residents of the Laguna Pueblo, some 45 miles to the west of Albuquerque.
The larger pueblo encompasses some 500,000 acres taking in parts of Bernalillo, Cibola, Sandoval, and Valencia counties.
Plans call for the new school, which will house classrooms, offices, storage space, and a computer lab, to be built on a 15-acre site. The structure will be built to achieve LEED Silver certification.
In response to news of the $26 million award, Virgil Siow, Laguna Pueblo Governor, said: “Our Pueblo administration and council has worked for many years to obtain funding for a modern state of the art school to replace the current school.”
Siow, in a statement, added: “Finally, our children will learn in a safe and modern environment.”
By Garry Boulard
In response to an investigation regarding conflict of interest charges in two Scottsdale school construction projects, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has signed into law legislation defining new rules for public school construction projects.
The legislation, which was included in the state’s $10.4 billion fiscal 2019 budget, directs the Arizona Board of Education to impose rules mandating that all contracts for such projects must be awarded based on the lowest price for a qualified bidder.
The legislation also prohibits gifts from contractors to procurement officers and requires all school districts to keep timely records documenting the licensing of a contractor hired to do facility work.
The bill additionally mandates that all school districts in the state must be able to provide rationales in their awarding of contracts.
The legislation, effective in July 2019, has been criticized by the Arizona Builders Alliance, which has criticized school construction projects being awarded via an entirely low-bid system.
According to reports, construction industry leaders in Arizona are expected to meet with lawmakers before the Arizona State Legislature reconvenes next January in the hope of having the law modified.
By Garry Boulard
congress looking at reducing construction industry red tape; increasing work site safety practices
Ryan Odendahl, the chairman of the Associated Builders and Contractors’ National Safety and Health Committee, wants to see two things coming out of Washington that are seemingly contradictory.
Appearing before a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Education and Workforce, Odendahl, who is also president of the Toldeo-based Kwest Group construction company, said that federal rules and regulations that he described as “burdensome and confusing” do “nothing to improve job site safety, but instead stifle our workforce and ignore insightful input from our industry experts.”
Odendahl instead has called for a more collaborative relationship between Washington and the construction industry, contending that “federal agencies are most effective when they collaborate with employers to focus on proven, data-driven, and common-sense measures that support safe workplaces and effectively reduce the rates of injury, illness, and fatalities.”
Odendahl’s remarks came during a hearing exploring approaches to changing the federal government’s role in the regulation of private companies.
During that hearing, Alabama Representative Bradley Byrne, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, said he is committed to studying how “regulatory costs can be controlled to allow for the continued growth of the nation’s economy, and the importance of Congress and the administration continuing to collaborate on a regulatory reform agenda.”
Odendahl added that while construction industry leaders are “striving to drive a culture of accident prevention,” he said it would be helpful if such agencies as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were to provide more compliance assistance “when it comes to some of the complex rules and regulations facing our industry.”
By Garry Boulard
A joint project between the City of Albuquerque and Bernalillo County could see the construction of a complex designed specifically to provide a secure place to live for those who are frequently homeless.
Albuquerque’s Department of Family and Community Services has issued a Request for Proposal for the development and construction of a 40-unit complex that could cost almost $4 million to build.
The project, which would feature 40 efficiency or one-bedroom units, will target, according to the RFP, “the most vulnerable individuals with behavioral health needs.”
Those units will have an occupancy standard of one person per unit.
Tenants living in the complex would be those who are subject to either severe housing instability; frequent admission to the county Metropolitan Detention Center’s psychiatric services unit; or those frequently using detoxification services or emergency medical services for behavioral health needs.
Up to $2 million in funding to build the complex will come from sales tax revenue specifically geared for behavioral health programs in Bernalillo County, along with $1.9 million from Albuquerque’s existing city funds.
Officials say if the complex proves successful, Albuquerque and Bernalillo County may collaborate in the future on other projects of the same nature.
According to a report issued by the U.S. Conference of Mayors in 2016, Albuquerque’s homeless rate is 21.9 per 10,000 people, a number higher than the national average of 16.9.
Other sources have said that there are as many as 1,300 people in Albuquerque identified as homeless.
By Garry Boulard
bernalillo county to issue request for qualifications for office upgrade project
One year after members of the Bernalillo County Commission voted to approve the purchase of one of the largest office buildings in downtown Albuquerque, a Request for Qualifications will soon be issued regarding the proposed renovation of that structure.
Built in 1980, Alvarado Square, located at 415 Silver Avenue SW, was the long-time home of the Public Service Company of New Mexico.
But the 8-floor structure was largely abandoned after PNM moved to another location in 2014, going on the market in 2016.
Bernalillo County officials, looking for a place to consolidate their various county office locations, decided that the 282,000 square-foot structure would best serve that purpose.
As planned, Alvarado Square will soon house the offices of the county clerk, treasurer, and assessor, as well as the Bernalillo County Probate Court.
Although it was initially thought that it would cost around $36 million to purchase and renovate the building, that figure has now increased to some $48 million for work that will include energy efficiency, mechanical, and plumbing system upgrades.
The facility work will also include a reconfiguring of some office space in the building, as well the construction of a new 250-seat chamber for commission members.
Funding for that work is expected to come from the issuance of some $37 million in gross receipt tax revenue bonds, as well as money that has already been saved by the county.
A $3.5 million general obligation bond may be voted on in the coming November election to provide additional support.
The Request for Qualifications for the project will be followed in August by a Request for Proposals.
By Garry Boulard
A bill designed to give the Army Corps of Engineers the needed authorization to maintain the nation’s water infrastructure has now won the approval of committees in both the House of Representatives and Senate.
The Water Resources Development Act of 2018 allows for work to begin, or continue on, thousands of water infrastructure projects across the country, but also, in a move to reduce costs, takes away authorization for projects that have been idle.
The legislation, passed by the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, will allow work to continue on any number of inland waterways projects, the upgrading of aging drinking water systems, ecosystem restoration, and Native American irrigation initiatives.
“This is infrastructure that strengthens our global competitiveness, grows the economy and creates jobs,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster in a statement after the legislation was approved by his committee.
That legislation is now being considered by the full Senate.
By Garry Boulard
Work could begin later this year on the renovation of one of the most visible and architecturally unique buildings in Denver: the castle-like North Building of the Denver Art Museum.
Designed by the famed Italian architect Gio Ponti, and opened to great fanfare in 1971, the North Building is popular not only for its unusual look, but also because it houses a majority of the museum’s collection, including the vast Western American Art collection.
In late 2016, Denver Art Museum officials announced a fundraising campaign to pay for a number of different facility upgrades inside the 7-story, 210,000 square-foot building.
That fundraising campaign, for what is altogether a $150 million project, has been highly successful, with individual donors pledging tens of millions of dollars.
But added to that support is the $25 million approved last November by Denver voters as part of a much larger $937 million package of general obligation bonds.
That $25 million has now been approved by the City of Denver in a first $193 million round of approved bond projects.
The work expected to take place at the North Building will see an expansion of the structure’s exhibition space, upgrades to its plumbing and HVAC systems, and the addition of outdoor play features for children.
Museum officials say the building will also be made more Americans with Disabilities Act compliant.
With the renovation design being undertaken by the Denver-based Fentress Architects and Machado and Silvetti of Boston, work on the structure is expected to be completed in time for the North Building’s 50th anniversary in the fall of 2021.
By Garry Boulard
Plans remain in the development stage for the building of a retirement community in Santa Fe that will go up on a 2.5-acre site at 401 Old Taos Highway just slightly north of downtown Santa Fe.
El Castillo, a long-standing downtown Santa Fe retirement community, wants to build a 204,000 square-foot, 3-story structure that would have enough space to house up to 73 individual units.
The project would be designed in a traditional Spanish Pueblo Revival style and would include a fitness center, dining room, kitchen and three interior courtyards.
The project is expected to cost around $37 million to build.
To get to the construction phase, El Castillo still needs to secure the approval of the city’s Historic Districts Review Board for proposing a structure that will be 13 feet taller than the allowed area maximum of 23 feet, 10 inches.
A memo written by a City of Santa Fe historic planner for the board states that the project’s third floor is “essential for the required living unit count to serve the demand for downtown housing,” adding that if the project should be restricted to just two floors, “the proposed development would not be economically viable and the project would not move forward.”
The Old Taos Highway site is the former home of what was known as the Ghost Ranch, a one-time Presbyterian Church retreat center.
By Garry Boulard
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