The federal government has agreed to extend the online auction of 59 acres it owns at the Denver Federal Center until Sept. 8 in response to an injunction filed in U.S. District Court by the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless to temporarily block any sale.
The auction, which opened May, had been scheduled to close on July 27. The U.S. Attorney's Office said in a statement hours before the auction was schedule to close it would extend the deadline by 45 days.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless filed the injunction against the General Services Administration (GSA) July 25, asking the court to halt the sale until the GSA provides the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) all the details of the property, and gives HUD a chance to determine if the land could be used for homeless services, said Cathy Alderman, the coalition's vice president of communications and public policy.
"Last fall, we asked for a suitability study and were told it wasn't suitable for any kind of services use," she said. "But now they're selling it for development, and if it can be developed, it can be used for homeless services."
The injunction — which the coalition says it intends to pursue — was filed under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, which requires federal agencies to identify and make available surplus federal property, such as buildings and land, for use by states, local governments and nonprofit agencies to assist homeless people, Alderman said.
"CCH believes the intent of Title V of the McKinney-Vento Act has been completely circumvented in this instance to the detriment of Colorado's most vulnerable citizens in need of safe and affordable housing," said a statement released by the coalition. The organization advocates for and provides a continuum of housing and a variety of services — such as medical treatment and child care services — to improve the health, well-being and stability of homeless residents.
Chad Hutson, a public affairs officer with the General Services Administration, said in a emailed statement that the GSA does not comment on pending litigation.
The 59 acres are zoned Mixed-Use Core Transit (M-C-T), which allows for high density residential and retail. The land was originally intended for the City of Lakewood to take ownership of, in exchange for building a new laboratory for the Federal Center, which houses 28 agencies in 44 buildings. The agreement was first put forth in October 2015, but residents' concern over a lack of information and time to do the necessary groundwork led to negotiations ending in January 2016. The online auction of the land began May 10.
Morgan explained that the auctions are typically open for about 60 to 90 days, a time period that allows potential bidders to conduct necessary due diligence. Bidders must make a deposit of $95,000 to show they are serious about taking ownership of the land.
“This kind of online auction is typical for us when we have property to sell,” said William Morgan, General Services Administration project manager, he said previously on June 8. “It's a very transparent process that allows the public to see the bids as they come in.”
As of the afternoon of July 28, seven bids on the land had been submitted with the highest bid at $5.2 million and the lowest at $700,000.
For the Coalition, the sale of the land is an opportunity see if the land can be used to benefit those most in need.
"The aim of the injunction is to get the information to HUD to see if it can be used, and we will continue to push for that," Alderman said. "This sale needs to be halted while the details are looked at."