Wednesday, April 17

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

SCHA housing plan nixed for Crestone

By Sandia Belgrade

Help is on the way for Saguache County residents struggling to find homes they can afford. But it can hardly get here soon enough and Crestone may be left out. Nationwide, a lack of affordable housing has reached crisis proportions. And the situation is even worse in rural areas, which are scarcely populated and have higher than average levels of poverty. Evan Samora, director of the Saguache County Housing Authority, is seeking grants from various sources with a goal of building three different housing projects across the county.

In Crestone
Saguache County recently withdrew from its contract to purchase a parcel of land located in the town of Crestone due to issues regarding potable water services to the parcel as well as wastewater services, Samora said. In a letter to the Housing Authority, the town stated that it was not able at the present time to guarantee adequate service or water pressure to the site, located near the proposed Living Wisdom senior housing facility. Initial plans called for the construction of three fourplexes, for a total of 12 homes, as well as an office/laundry room. Rental rates would likely have started at the 30 percent of area median income affordability and gone up from there. “This result is extremely disappointing,” Samora said. “There is a definite need for housing in the Crestone area and I hope there will be another opportunity in the future to help support affordable housing efforts in Crestone.”

In Saguache
The County Housing Authority owns a one-acre lot located at 250 Gunnison Ave. Assistance has been received from the Colorado, Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA), whose mission is to strengthen Colorado by investing in affordable housing and community development. CHFA has provided significant help with initial design, public outreach, and technical assistance with grant submission. A Transformational Housing Grant request was submitted in January, which if awarded would cover three-quarters of the construction costs. An initial contemporary design was presented at a public meeting in May 2022. Plans include 23 rentals units and five condominium-type ownership opportunities. Rental costs would likely be affordable for households earning between 30 and 80 percent of the area median income. (Area median income means that half of households in an area earn more than the median and half earn less than the median.) The home ownership opportunities would likely be affordable for those earning 80 percent or higher of the area median income. The estimated completion date will depend on when funding is secured, when a partnership with a developer occurs, and other factors, including supply chain issues.

Casita Park
Saguache County was awarded an IHOP (innovative housing planning grant program) grant to focus on development in Casita Park, which is part of the Baca Grande Property Owners Association. IHOP will help design a program for using county-owned parcels for affordable housing. Casita Park is an exciting location because of the number of lots in the park and a considerable number of those lots having existing water and sewer taps. Possible additional funding sources include the Colorado Division of Housing’s “Housing Development Grants,” which offer a subsidy per individual home. The county is currently seeking assistance in developing additional home ownership opportunities in Casita Park. Although housing at each location will be provided for low-income residents, Samora believes the term “low income housing” is loaded with negative connotations. Affordable housing supports households of many income levels, and subsidies usually are provided for residents earning 30 to 80 percent of the area median income. Guidelines published by the Colorado Division of Housing note that a single person is considered low income at $46,049 per year, which means that this housing will support schoolteachers, folks in service industries, and many local government workers. Samora currently manages two apartment complexes in Saguache: Bluewater Haciendas with 12 apartments and Porto del Norte, with 16 apartments. The county website provides details for those wishing to get on the waiting list. In addition to managing these units, Samora’s work includes researching housing needs and programs and acquiring funds to develop new sites around the county. His efforts belie the popular myth that “our government never does nothing.” Samora believes people need a place to live in order for economic development to occur in Saguache County.

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