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Colorado Springs leaders look for affordable housing crisis solutions

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COLORADO SPRINGS -

In one of the fastest growing real estate markets in the country, the concern in Colorado Springs is as more houses are built and costs continue to rise, those on low or fixed incomes will continue to be squeezed out.

10 of the 36 residents given a 30 day notice earlier this month to leave their apartments at Emerald Towers have not found a place to live yet.

Many of which surviving on fixed incomes have paid the same rent for years and haven't found anything similar. 

"This is the tip of the iceberg," Richard Skorman, Colorado Springs City Council President said.

36 seniors at the Emerald Towers apartment complex told to leave for good while their new managers can renovate. Displaced residents can apply to move back in when upgrades are complete at likely a much higher price.

"It's going to happen more and more especially in these areas that are getting gentrified and going through urban renewal like south Nevada, that's a place that's very much a target," Skorman said.

Skorman, now openly calling the affordable housing issue a "crisis."

"There's just not much available out there so there is a real crisis," he said.

He says his hope is that the city will ease up on some of the hoops builders have to get through.

"You have to do whatever you can to allow the market to build them and they are economical if you don't have so many obstacles in the way and so many fees and so many ways that make it difficult for people to build accessory dwellings, for example," he said.

The largest school district in Colorado Springs is now stepping up to address these needs.

D-11 school board members unanimously voted Wednesday night to sell a vacant 22 acre plot of land near Wooten and Platte that was donated to them almost two decades ago. The buyer is the owner of the 40 acre plot of land next door.

"So they're going to combine the two and build affordable housing," Kris Odom, D-11 Executive Director of Procurement and Contracting said.

The buyer, Don Bates, told the district he wants to enhance the neighborhood and address the community's need for affordable housing. 

"They always like to have a win-win for the community, they like to have a win for the district, they like to have a win for the community and they like to have a win for the buyer and this is that," Odom said.

And there could be more money available. If council decides to move forward with the Banning Lewis ranch annexation deal on the east side of town, it could generate $49 million over the next 30 years. Money which Skorman says he would be open to putting toward affordable housing.

"Certainly, some of that money could go towards affordable housing, a lot of cities have affordable housing trust funds or they help with funding for some of these complexes and there's a way that we can get more involved actively if we have the money to do it," he said.

In the meantime, Thursday was the deadline for seniors at Emerald Towers to move out if they want their $500 dollar bonus. Everyone else has until the end of the year.

The city and other resources have started a fundraiser to help with moving costs and deposits for these folks. As of Thursday, they've raised $24,000 so far, but hope to get to $36,000.

If you'd like to donate, click here.

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