Still too little affordable housing – The Mountain -Ear

Dear Editor,

Affordable housing concerns are often brought to my attention. Most officials and locals aren’t as knowledgeable as I am, it being my passion for over a decade. Especially senior housing, leading me to being the Nederland Affordable Housing Historian-Advocate-Consultant.

A little bit about my background: 40+ years mountain resident, 2006 Mayor’s Affordable Housing Roundtable, 2012 Founder of the Nederland Mayor’s Affordable Housing Taskforce, professional human services background including indigenous cross-cultural experience, 70+ years of age. Following is some housing terminology:

Subsidized housing (formerly known as Public Housing) refers to federal housing programs that are administered by the states and counties. They are capped at 30% of gross income from all sources:

Choice program (formerly known as Section 8) – Recipients receive a voucher for a predetermined amount of rent. It is based on a lottery system when the program opens up the wait list. The renter pays 30% and the voucher pays 70%. Private property owners must agree to program regulations.

Senior Housing program is designated for people 60+ years of age. The renter pays 30% of gross income from all sources. Generally, the occupants are single women with limited financial resources.

Affordable Housing (formerly known as Workforce Housing) refers to federal housing programs administered by the states and counties. Income-restricted rents are below market rate, and often, although not always, tied to the county’s average median income (AMI). The drawback using the % of AMI spread of units means the county needs to balance their portfolio for investors’ rate of return. Thus, subsidized housing for those most in need remains grossly inadequate. The first affordable housing in Colorado was built in Nederland from a USDA/HUD grant:

• 1983, 6/affordable Rodeo Court townhouses (4-two bedroom / 2-three bedroom).

• 1984, 12/affordable Beaver Creek apartments (one-bedroom)

• 1988, 6 subsidized Prime Haven Senior apartments (one-bdrm)

• 2020, 26 affordable Tungsten Village apartments (12-one bdrm / 12-two / 2-three) – (9 subsidized)

“Less than one percent of the County’s population resides in mountain communities. Between 2010 and 2019, availability of affordable quality housing among senior County residents decreased from 27 % to nine %” – excerpted from 2019 Boulder Community Foundation Trends report.

An invisible demographic in the P2P area is there is no representation nor advocacy for Seniors at the table of discussion(s) regarding housing. As of 2022, Nederland has 44 Affordable Housing units and (still) only 6 Senior Housing units. In 2013, Atashnaa Medicineshield Werner brokered a partnership between Nederland and Boulder County Housing Authority (BCHA) to build subsidized senior and affordable housing. The mandated commission of a housing needs survey was conducted; paid for by BCHA and the town. In 2014, among their conclusions were:

A rapidly increasing base of local seniors will be requiring housing to meet their specific needs.

Lack of affordable housing contributes to the loss of young families and decline in school enrollment.

Among the recommendations outlined in the Bowen Survey were:

Affordable senior housing should be a priority to meet the growing base of area senior households, particularly those of low-income, to age in place.

Affordable housing to accommodate the trend towards smaller household sizes of one or two people is what is in demand.

According to Chris Current, former executive director of the Food Pantry, “A majority of our clients are spending 80% of their income on rent.” In 2020 the Town got its first Affordable Housing, Tungsten Village, since 1984. But Emergency Family Assistance Association’s Mountain caseworker, Kristi Venditti, says the 26 units aren’t enough. Her position turned into a fulltime job that grew 40% since she started. – excerpted from the 2021 Boulder Community Foundation – TRENDS report

2019 Boulder County Area Median Income (AMI) is $84,918.

Moderate: 60 percent / $25 per hour

Low: 50 percent / $21.05 per hour

Very low: 40 percent / $17.69 per hour

Extremely low: 30 percent / $12.73 per hour

Atashnaa Medicineshield Werner