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Colorado Springs accelerates construction of affordable housing

Academy Heights construction Medium.jpeg
Posted at 6:05 PM, May 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-19 21:14:53-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — More than 1,000 new units of affordable housing will open to Colorado Springs renters this year, double the pace of construction compared to 2018. This construction activity is most visible on the southeast side of the city.

\Steve Posey, Community Development Manager for the City of Colorado Springs explained the five development projects happening in this part of the city represent more than $200 million worth of construction investment.

"The average rent across all of those projects will be about $950 a month,” Posey said.

Affordable housing developments leverage tax credits to help finance construction. This in turn allows units in the building to be rented at below-market rates to people with qualifying income. Generally speaking, to qualify for an affordable housing lease a renter must earn an amount less than the area's Average Median Income or AMI.

“We've gone from about 3,000 tax-credit financed units in Colorado Springs to about 6,100," said Mayor John Suthers. "I think you'll find that's the best in Colorado and even surpasses Denver.”

Suthers set a goal during his 2018 State of the City address of doubling new affordable housing development from 500 units per year to 1,000.

"We really, in my opinion, we need to set a more ambitious goal at this point, maybe 1500 units a year," Suthers said.

The city's investment in housing extends to veterans who are struggling to make ends meet. The Pikes Peak Veterans Housing Fund is a public-private partnership that pays housing costs for veterans experiencing homelessness.

Quinn Williams moved into his rental home in January thanks to the fund. Williams, a navy veteran, relocated to Colorado Springs from New Orleans but suffered three heart attacks over a period of three years. He'd recently been living on the streets.

“It gave me a, I would say a second chance, but I had three heart attacks," Williams joked. "So, it gave me a fourth chance at life, you know what I mean.”

He wants other vets in the community to realize that help is available.

“We have a lot of pride, we don't know how to accept help sometimes," Williams said.

One of the challenges developers face in creating new affordable housing developments is locating and buying land. A new 77-unit project called The Villages at Solid Rock that will open next summer found land from an unexpected property owner; a church.

"The church can be more than just spiritual investors," said Paster Ben Anderson of Solid Rock Christian Church.

He explained that when the church bought undeveloped parcels that border their property, the board initially thought that it could be used as a community garden. Anderson said he realized that affordable housing was a greater need.

“Our focus has always been community activism and how to impact our community and how to make it better," he said.

Anderson now serves as the head of the non-profit Solid Rock Community Development Foundation which is the legal entity working with the city to create the project.

When it opens, the property will have one, two, and three-bedroom units to lease to people earning 60 percent of AMI.

It's the first time that a church has secured tax credits to build affordable housing in Colorado Springs. However, other non-profit groups are following his example. Earlier this week, the executive director of The Place announced that her organization and Silver Key Senior Services have secured tax credit awards to build supportive and affordable housing for homeless youth and low-income seniors in Colorado Springs.
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