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The saga over the future of 59 acres near the Federal Center in Lakewood continues to develop, as the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has filed a complaint in the US District Court of Colorado and a Motion for a Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction to stop the public auction of the federal center property.
The motions were filed against the General Services Administration (GSA), and would require the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reevaluate the Coalition's financing plan to develop the property for affordable housing and services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness in the area.
“We believe that HHS's review, denial, and subsequent rejection of a request for reconsideration constitutes arbitrary and capricious action and violated CCH's due process rights, all to the detriment of families and individuals currently living in Lakewood in need of immediate help,” said John Parvensky, CEO and president of the coalition in a statement. “CCH submitted a reasonable financing plan to develop the property for a range of emergency, transitional and permanent housing and supportive services.”
The lawsuit follows HHS' March denial of the coalition plan to turn the 59 acres into a housing and resource center for the homeless. Following the denial, the GSA reopened the online auction for the property, but as of May 4, there have been no bids, and there are 73 days remaining.
A temporary injunction on the GSA public auction would allow for CCH to have its application reevaluated by HHS without the threat of it being sold to a third party during the reevaluation, according to the coalition.
In the organization's motion, it states “HHS appears to have played a game of 'gotcha,' basing its denial on a series of conclusions that were minor, immaterial, arbitrary, and capricious in an apparent attempt to thwart the Congressional intent of making surplus property available to assist the homeless” in compliance with Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act.
The group also states HHS didn't allow the coalition a chance to follow up and answer questions about the application, instead denying it outright.
“CCH also believes that in a clear attempt to sell the property to the highest bidder, rather than make it available for homelessness assistance as required by the law, GSA inappropriately inserted itself into the Title V application process despite the law providing no such role for GSA in the review of applications,” the information states.
Rich Stebbins, with the GSA, said the administration cannot comment on matters of litigation, but noted the auction remains open.
“We believe it is our duty to hold these agencies accountable to the law and to do everything within our power to provide the critically needed supportive housing, healthcare, employment, and support services to the homeless individuals and families that have been left behind in Jefferson County and Lakewood,” Parvensky said.
The coalition proposed building temporary housing for about 250 homeless people that could include trailers, geodesic domes and large tents. A second phase would build 500 to 600 permanent affordable housing units in apartment buildings capable of housing 1,000 people. The coalition considered turning about 12 acres in the northern section of the property into a solar panel farm to help power the campus.
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