As Colorado Springs City Council members on Tuesday consider approving the spending plan for incoming federal Housing and Urban Development funding, a new map shows property values have not decreased in any city neighborhood because of affordable housing projects.
The information refutes what’s often the leading cause of neighborhood opposition to such development.
“According to the data we have, there is not a single place in the city of Colorado Springs where a low-income project has brought down property values in the last five years,” said Steve Posey, HUD program manager.
That’s also not the case in other states, said Daryn Murphy, vice president of development for Wisconsin-based Commonwealth Development Corp.
“We hear that argument quite often, but we haven’t seen where it actually plays out,” he said.
At least six sections of the city where tax-credited affordable-housing projects have been built are among the neighborhoods that have seen property values increase the most in recent years, Posey noted.
City officials expect to receive an estimated $5 million in HUD funding to address priorities for affordable housing, homelessness prevention, economic development, nonprofit assistance and improvements in low-income neighborhoods. The funding starts April 1 and covers the second year of a five-year plan.
New affordable housing developments are defined as “by far the largest housing problem in Colorado Springs,” Posey said, adding that complexes totaling 600 units are scheduled to open this year.
HUD defines affordable housing as that for households earning 80% or less than the area’s median income. Affordable housing for someone who’s paid $14 to $15 an hour would be $750 to $800 per month, Posey said.
The average rent in Colorado Springs is around $1,150 per month, he said, with newer apartments charging $1,400 to $1,600 a month.
“That’s obviously out of range for low-wage earning workers,” Posey said.
Affordable housing units on the market this year will run around $400 a month for low-income seniors to $800 to $900 for a family of two working parents with one child, he said.
Housing prices increasing faster than income has created a housing crisis and the need for more affordable apartments, Murphy said.
About half of Colorado Springs renters and one-quarter of homeowners are “cost burdened,” meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing, according to the proposed plan.
The population is split about evenly between homeowners and renters, with 17% either not confident or not sure they could pay their rent or mortgage in coming months, many because of economic losses from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a November-December survey of 1,277 Colorado Springs residents.
“There needs to be options for folks that earn lower wages,” Murphy said. “There are some misconceptions about the people we provide housing for, and there’s a fear, but at the end of day, we’re providing housing for people who work in the workforce, at the neighborhood grocery store or auto repair shop.”
Founders of Colorado Springs nonprofit object to selling of low-income residential properties
But the “not in my back yard” sentiment remains strong.
The final building of a new 60-apartment campus called The Ridge, off Highway 115 South and South Academy Boulevard in the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood, opened in January. While under construction, the building caught fire last April, which delayed completion of the 10 three-bedroom units. Murphy said investigators did not determine a cause of the fire.
Opposition to the project was fierce, continued for two years and involved multiple legal challenges.
“We see varying degrees of opposition in a lot of communities, but we haven’t seen it to that extent anywhere,” said Murphy, whose company built The Ridge and develops affordable housing in Oregon, Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming.
The Ridge apartments became contentious as hundreds of residents aired grievances that included negative impacts increased traffic, enrollment burdens on neighborhood schools and devaluation of houses.
Persistence, adhering to city codes and promoting the merits led the developer to win court disputes, Murphy said.
Greccio Housing is managing the complex for low-income residents, and apartments are fully occupied, according to the nonprofit organization, some within days of opening.
Commonwealth Development Corp. also is building a 54-unit complex for low-income seniors at Templeton Gap Road and Austin Bluffs Parkway.
Other projects in the works include one north of UCHealth Park, formerly Sky Sox Stadium, and another north of Woodmen Road and North Powers Boulevard.
Developers choose locations for affordable housing based on existing zoning requirements and proximity to amenities such as schools, transportation and shopping, Murphy said. It’s increasingly difficult to find vacant land, or infill, in established neighborhoods for new properties, he added.
City leaders have no say over where affordable housing gets built, Posey said, but projects need to complete the same approval process as any other development.
Residents object to multi-family apartments in general, Posey said, whether they are designated as affordable or not. The most common complaints from neighbors are increased traffic and congestion on nearby streets and decreased parking in the area, he said.
More affordable housing is in the pipeline for Colorado Springs.
“That’s a very good thing,” Posey said. “Construction and development is a good indicator of the economy — it creates jobs, tax development and housing.”
The proposed action plan also calls for increasing the number of landlords and property managers that are willing to establish affordable rental units from existing stock, perhaps even renting out rooms to people who have encountered difficulties and are trying to get back on their feet.
An estimated 350 homeless families in Colorado Springs need housing assistance. The number of homeless veterans needing housing assistance is roughly 650.