Colorado Coalition of the Homeless files lawsuit over 59 acres of surplus federal land in Lakewood

LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- A legal battle between a local homeless coalition and multiple federal agencies has emerged over 59 acres of land up for sale in Lakewood.

The parcel of surplus federal land is adjacent to the Denver Federal Center near West Sixth Avenue and Kipling Street.

Of the 59 acres, 15 acres are capped landfills. In the fall, Housing and Urban Development officials determined the property was not suitable for homeless services and housing because of toxins.

But recently, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment deemed the land safe and determined it can be sold for any type of development.

The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless said the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 requires that excess or surplus federal land be made available for homelessness assistance.

When the coalition recently learned the land was going up for public auction to be developed for mixed use, including residential, it filed a lawsuit against HUD and the U.S. General Services Administration.

“We’re just wondering why the land would not be suitable for homelessness services and housing, but would be somehow suitable for market-rate development or other families,” said Cathy Alderman, the vice president of communication and public policy for the coalition.

“The sale of 59 acres of land shows GSA’s continued commitment to make more efficient use of our real estate assets by divesting of underutilized property, thereby saving taxpayer dollars," HUD and GSA said in a statement.

As of Wednesday night, the highest bid on the plot of land is $3.1 million. But the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is hoping the lawsuit will block the sale.

“The intent of the law was that federal land be made available so that we can really address the issue of homelessness and in this instance it was not,” Alderman said.