Housing

Denver-area seniors caught in housing crunch

Affordability is crucial issue for aging residents

Posted 1/24/16

The senior population is expected to double in the next 20 years, but many may be out of luck when it comes to finding a place to live.

“The biggest challenge for this aging population is finding housing they can afford,” said state Sen. …

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Housing

Denver-area seniors caught in housing crunch

Affordability is crucial issue for aging residents

Posted

The senior population is expected to double in the next 20 years, but many may be out of luck when it comes to finding a place to live.

“The biggest challenge for this aging population is finding housing they can afford,” said state Sen. Jessie Ulibarri, D-Adams County. “Most folks in the state have experienced the housing crunch. But seniors don’t have a lot of options.”

Developers are focused on providing affordable housing along transportation corridors, like Lakewood’s West Rail or W Line, the Gold Line, which is coming through Arvada and the B Line, which would pass through Westminster and Adams County. These projects are all part of RTD’s FasTracks program. The Gold and B lines are part of the 41-mile Northwest Rail Line project from Denver’s Union Station to Longmont.

The hope is to provide living options for those looking to make use of multi-modal transportation, like at Lakewood’s West Line Flats, which had a groundbreaking on Jan. 21.

“This is a dream come true for West Colfax because we can offer this to people of all ages,” said Bill Marino, board member of the West Colfax Community Association. “There is a strong demand for studios and one-bedroom apartments in the area.”

West Line Flats is the first all-market-rate apartments along the W Rail, with a cost of $1,100 a month for studio apartments, $1,350 for one-bedrooms and $1,700 for two-bedrooms.

Although this kind of development is important, it provides only minimal options for seniors, Ulibarri said. Senior-specific options are coming to these communities, but are more than a year away in most cases.

Wazee Partners is attempting to build 150 low-income senior apartments in the Eiber Neighborhood in Lakewood, and Dominium Development is interested in building senior apartments at the southeast corner of Wadsworth Boulevard and Church Ranch Boulevard in Westminster.

“We see a big need for affordable senior housing in the community, especially because the demographics of seniors are growing so rapidly,” said Ron Mehl, senior developer with Dominium, which held an open house on Jan. 25 for to share project details with residents. “There are more options in assisted living and continuous care facilities, but not much for independent living.”

Housing provides a challenge for many seniors because they are on a fixed income, which makes finding affordable options difficult. But building these developments is not always welcome by the communities. At community meetings about the projects, neighbors are often concerned about the uses and quality of projects next door.

“We build things to own — they’re not things we’re just going to flip,” Mehl said. “We want our projects to feel like market-rate developments that fit into the area.”

Both the Eiber and Dominium projects will rely heavily on tax credits from the Colorado Housing Finance Authority, which offers financial resources to strengthen homeownership and affordable rental housing. But the program is competitive and there aren’t a lot of funds.

Colorado is one of the few states without consistent funding for affordable housing projects, Ulibarri said. He is proposing legislation to address these issues, including reaffirming the tax credits and creating a permanent statewide housing investment fund.

“This is an area where we’ve seen even a modest investment can yield some huge impacts,” he said. “Providing housing is one of the most cost-effective ways to help people.”

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