While it may not seem like a lot has been happening with the Living Wisdom Village project, the nonprofit Crestone Peak Community Housing (CPCH) developing it has been busy behind the scenes getting it closer to reality.
Living Wisdom Village (LWV) is a planned multi-unit affordable senior housing project on 4.6 acres within five minutes walking distance of downtown Crestone. The 20-unit project with a community center is shovel-ready, meaning the project design is complete, construction plans are in hand, and contractors have committed to building it. The demand is certainly there—LWV closed the waiting list in the summer of 2021 at 50 people, as the demand far outweighed CPCH’s capacity to provide housing. The majority of the units will be for people who have incomes at 30% to 80% AMI (area median income).
The biggest holdup so far has been securing enough funding to complete the project through private donations and grants from foundations and the state. The total project cost is estimated at $5.6 million, of which $1.2 million has been received or committed to it.
To close that gap, CPCH Executive Director Akia Tanara recently applied for $4,533,029 in state funding from $243 million the federal government awarded Colorado in 2022 to help tackle the lack of affordable housing statewide. However, to apply for the funds, CPCH had to match 25% of the projected cost of the project. Because they are about $250,000 short of the amount needed for the match, the nonprofit has launched a capital campaign to raise those funds.
The Eagle interviewed CPCH Board Chair Kirsten Schreiber in mid-January to learn more about their progress and how the community can help.
Eagle: People in the community are wondering where the project
stands now. What can you tell us?
Kirsten: We are shovel-ready. That is important. Everything is in place to begin. The moment we have the funding we can break ground. We are not going to start until we have all the funding in place. The engineering is done, the geological studies have been done. Indie Dwell out of Pueblo is planning to build the units off-site. The community center will be built by Alcon out of Monte Vista. Depending on the duration of DOLA’s review process, we could have some units done by the end of 2023.
Eagle: Can you explain the funding you’ve applied for and the funding gap you are hoping to fill?
Kirsten: We have to come up with 25% of the total project cost to get this state funding. We have so far come up with $1.2 million and we need roughly another $250,000. That’s the gap, and why we launched a capital campaign. We’ve been approved for a bank loan for the gap, but we want to avoid that if possible. If the project has long term debt, the rents will have to be increased to pay that debt, creating a greater burden on seniors with low incomes.
Eagle: What do you think the chances of getting the state funding are, and when will you get it?
Kirsten: In my heart I think we will get most of what we need from them. Akia is a phenomenal grant writer—she wrote like 50 pages for this. I’m very hopeful. We should know by April or May if we have been awarded the funds.
Eagle: Why are you involved in this big undertaking, on a personal level?
Kirsten: I’ve done a lot of home care. I’m a nurse aide, and I’ve seen what happens to people here when they get old and live in isolation and don’t have the funds to pay for somebody to take them shopping or just to visit. My vision is that these people can come and live together and support each other, help each other age in place. I think people can live a lot longer in a community helping each other. Also, the government is recognizing that aging in place is ultimately less expensive. When elders’ assets are used up in assisted living, then the state has to pay for them.
Eagle: Please describe the process for applicants once funding is in place.
Kirsten: Most people know there are 50 people on the wait list. These 50 people will be informed the moment we have funding in place, and we will have application forms ready. There will be different categories of affordability, including market rate. When people apply for less than market rate, they have to prove they are in need. But there are people are on our list with only $700/month in Social Security.
Eagle: How can people donate to your capital campaign?
Kirsten: They can mail a check to CPCH, PO Box 911, Crestone, CO 81131. Checks should be made payable to CPCH. Or they visit our Donate page on our website at www.crestonepeakcommunityhousing.org.