PUEBLO — Our News 5 Investigates team is working to help several tenants who say a government lease-to-own housing program has not kept its end of the deal.
Back in 2001, 50 low income families in Pueblo were selected to participate in a 15-year program designed to turn renters into homeowners.
Two decades later, multiple tenants say they still don't have the deed.
It's a story News 5 Investigates first reported on back in October and we're following up on a resolution.
Our investigation uncovered at least five families have been paying rent for more than five years after they should have received the deed to their home.
It's not a matter of "if" they are entitled to the deed, it's "when" will they actually have the opportunity to get it?
"We kept our side of the contract," Allan Pieren said. "We've been here for 21 years. 15 years came and went and nothing ever happened."
Pieren is another tenant who came forward following our original report last month on the Oakshire Hills neighborhood.
Two decades ago, the area was developed to give more than 4 dozen families the opportunity to become homeowners for little to no money down after 15-years of successful rental payments.
Now, more than five years after the program ended, tenants are questioning when they will see the deed to their home.
"Every year they make us sign a new lease as if we are renters and not homeowners," Pieren said. "Every year, I ask them (the Housing Authority) and they tell me it's in the works, it's in the lawyers hands, they don't know for sure (what's happening)."
Pieren's story isn't unique.
Greg Lucero shares the same frustrations.
He too has been asking for the deed to his home, all while he continues to pay rent.
"When are we going to get our house," Lucero stated. "The program ended and all we kept hearing was that it was coming."
News 5 took these concerns straight to Steven Trujillo, the new executive director for the Pueblo Housing Authority.
"The goal of the program is to make successful homeowners at the end of it all and that's what we're working on," he said in a previous interview with News 5.
Trujillo took the position with the Housing Authority long after the original 15-year lease-to-own program launched.
He acknowledged that Lucero and a handful of other tenants have successfully completed the program.
News 5 asked Trujillo if he could give us an exact date for when these homeowners would be presented the paperwork required for a deed transfer.
"I cannot guarantee you a date only because I don't control the calendars of others we have to work with and so all I will say is we understand the importance of what we're working on and we're working to close it as soon as we can," he said.
The Pueblo Housing Authority and Colorado Housing and Finance Authority are the two "key" players in helping transition Oakshire Hills residents from a tenant status to actual homeowners.
CHFA declined an on-camera interview but issued the following statement:
While the housing tax credit program is primarily intended to support the construction and preservation of affordable rental housing, the conversion of rental units at Oakshire Hills to homeownership presents a unique opportunity for certain residents. The conversion process requires documentation and agreements that the property owner must provide to both eligible residents and to CHFA to complete the process. These include items such as title commitments, deed restrictions, and purchase-and-sale agreements. CHFA is meeting with Pueblo Housing Authority (PHA) on a weekly basis to obtain updates from them and provide any support that they may need from us as they navigate this process. At this time, PHA is making progress towards developing the required items but CHFA has not received everything required from PHA to move forward. Once we do, CHFA expects a short turnaround on our end. CHFA will continue to work with PHA to help ensure we provide information necessary to assist them and the eligible residents of Oakshire Hills to achieve homeownership.
It appears the documentation is now getting squared away for multiple tenants who say they've been trying for several years to get the deed to their property.
After our initial report aired, Trujillo sent News 5 an updated statement this month:
I know when we last spoke, we had mentioned keeping in contact as progress takes place. Just wanted to let you know what we have made some huge strides and the drafts and final language is being reviewed by legal teams. So this means we are close to putting the final in front of residents, which is exciting!
News 5 Investigates will continue following the deed transfer process and we'll be checking in with both the Pueblo Housing Authority and CHFA later this month for another update.
Have a problem or issue you'd like News 5 Investigates to look into? Email us: News5Investigates@KOAA.com