Colorado homeless coalition sues federal housing agency over Federal Center land

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has sued the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to stop an auction of 59 acres at Denver Federal Center claiming the decision to do so may violate the Homeless Assistance Act.

The civil lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Denver by John Parvensky, president and CEO of the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, also names the U.S. General Services Administration as a defendant.

The nonprofit homeless advocacy group wants the judge to stop HUD from selling surplus property until the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment can determine there are no development restrictions on the property.

GSA property disposal manager William Morgan has said that the vacant land near the West Rail Line Federal Center station near West Sixth Avenue and Simms Street could be developed for residential and retail uses.

But the decision to sell the property came after HUD officials determined that the property was unsuitable for homeless services and housing because a former landfill on the property contaminated 15 acres with high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, metals, dioxin/furans, pesticides and asbestos that are a threat to physical safety, the lawsuit says.

Federal officials had reported that the contaminated portion of the land had been capped in a way that met environmental requirements, the lawsuit says. And in May, Morgan was quoted in The Denver Post saying that the property could be used for housing.

Homeless coalition officials never received a reply from federal officials after they asked them to consider using the property for homeless services, the lawsuit says.

CDPHE project manager David Walker also reported that even the portion of the 59 acres encompassing the prior landfill was suitable for development, the lawsuit says.

“One thing to note is that there is no restriction on the type of development that may occur in the northwest corner sale area property in general, or the NW corner landfill cover property in particular,” Walker reported.

On Friday, the coalition formally asked HUD to reconsider its determination that the property was unsuitable for the homeless. The nonprofit’s lawsuit points out that it has constructed 220 apartments on the former Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, a former Department of Defense site.

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