For more than 40 years, the Denver Urban Renewal Authority’s (DURA) housing rehabilitation programs have been helping low-income homeowners make emergency repairs and improvements to their homes through grants and affordable loans. But lately — and for the first time in the organization’s history — DURA can’t find enough contractors to work on this unique program, which aims to keep residents, primarily in Denver’s historic neighborhoods, in their homes.
Chalk it up to Denver’s mile-high building boom that continues to have a ripple effect across the city, and the fact that many contractors already can’t keep up with Denver’s demand for skilled labor.
“We have more work than we have contractors to complete it,” said Fred Yeazel, senior rehabilitation specialist for DURA. “Currently with our pool of contractors, we’re keeping them all busy.”
DURA works with a pool of qualified contractors who have been pre-approved to bid on home repair and improvement projects for DURA housing clients. Right now, that pool includes 11 general contractors, and about 3-4 specialty contractors in each of the various building trade categories, such as electricians, carpenters, plumbers, roofers, etc. DURA hopes to double those numbers to be able to meet the demand of its housing rehabilitation programs.
In 2017, DURA worked with local contractors to rehabilitate 216 homes in Denver — including replacing aging or damaged roofs, fixing electrical or plumbing problems, adding accessibility upgrades to the homes of people with disabilities, upgrading appliances, replacing sewer lines and much more. Necessary repairs that the homeowners would not have been able to afford without DURA’s help.
Betty Valenzuela’s historic Denver home was among those 216. She lives on a limited income and needed help making improvements to her home – including installing a wheelchair access ramp for her husband after he became ill. Through DURA’s Renter/Homeowner Access Modification Program (RHAMP), she received grant funds to cover the entire project.
DURA met with Betty, developed a plan for what needed to be done to her home, and put the project out for bidding to its pre-approved contractors. As part of this program, once a contractor is selected, DURA oversees the work to make sure repairs are completed quickly, at a competitive price, with the highest quality work and in the best interest of the homeowner.
Yeazel says a partnership with DURA is ideal for smaller contractors or those just starting out. The application process is simple, but contractors must carry adequate worker’s compensation coverage and be appropriately insured and licensed through the Denver Building Department. Once a contractor’s application is approved, they can begin bidding on work.
“Most of our contractors don’t do any marketing because DURA finds the clients for them,” said Yeazel. “DURA sets the scope of work and all of the materials are standardized so there’s no uncertainty.”
Kevin Roy, owner of Gil-Roy Construction, Inc., has been working with DURA since 1978 and has completed thousands of projects with the organization over the years. He says one of the biggest benefits to working with DURA is that they do all the legwork upfront.
“On a private job, you can spend a lot of hours you don’t get paid for trying to figure out what the homeowner wants,” said Roy. “DURA meets with the client first and makes a work description, so everyone is on the same page.”
Roy adds that DURA also has a contingency plan for when unexpected issues come up — which happens often, especially in older homes, and can easily derail a project.
“At the end of the day, DURA is there as an ally to the contractor in case there’s any dispute to help mediate,” said Yeazel. “They don’t have to rely on the client’s financing or worry about them running out of money.”
In a market as competitive as Denver, becoming pre-approved for DURA projects also means contractors have a smaller playing field to compete in during the bidding process.
“On the private side, I get maybe one out of 10 projects because there can be as many as 10-15 companies bidding on it. With DURA, I get about four out of 10 jobs,” said Roy, whose company gets about half of its work through DURA.
But perhaps the biggest benefit to partnering with DURA is the rewarding nature of the projects and the people impacted by this work.
“It’s really nice to go into a house with DURA and the people really appreciate what you’re doing,” said Roy. “You see their excitement to be able to have something done to their home and that’s rewarding.”
For more information about becoming pre-approved to work on DURA projects, or to start the application process, contact DURA at (303) 534-7303 or visit renewdenver.org.
About the Denver Urban Renewal Authority
The Denver Urban Renewal Authority makes Denver stronger by assisting with thoughtful redevelopment and investing in neighborhoods with affordable loans for home repairs that allow residents to stay in their own homes. DURA partners with communities and city agencies when redevelopment or revitalization needs to happen, leading a thoughtful process that brings together neighborhoods and the city as a whole. For more information, visit renewdenver.org.
10 Reasons to Partner with DURA
Contractors enjoy working with DURA for many reasons … but here’s what we hear are the top ten.
No contractor marketing costs to attract clients.
Client credit check performed in advance by DURA.
Funds are in escrow from the start.
Materials list is standardized for quick bidding.
Low administration: DURA prepares and finalizes all contracts and documents.
Standardized construction specifications are provided.
Home inspection is completed by DURA.
Scope of work is provided by DURA.
DURA pays contractors quickly.
Satisfaction of helping deserving Denver residents and families in need.