Greccio's affordable housing inventory grows again

March 6, 2012

With help from funds distributed by a federal program to revitalize older, distressed neighborhoods and communities, Greccio Housing has purchased a 36-unit apartment building on East Bijou Street — the third addition to its affordable housing portfolio in the last month.

Most of the money for the $1.7 million purchase and renovation of the Woodbine Apartments at 2020 E. Bijou St. came from the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which was established to help revitalize areas blighted by real estate foreclosures and abandonment.The Colorado Springs Office of Housing Development provided a $400,000 loan to complete the purchase.

Last month, Greccio bought the Uintah Park and Terrace Apartments, a two-building property that had fallen into foreclosure last year. The properties didn’t qualify for Neighborhood Stabilization money, so Greccio financed the $1.18 million transaction with a mix of low-cost loans, a traditional mortgage and grants.

Together, the two purchases add 72 affordable housing units at a time when people are trying to find rentals that won’t eat up their entire paycheck. With rents at privately owned apartment buildings hovering at near-record highs, it’s become more of a struggle than ever.

“We have many clients coming in for assistance who pay more rent than they can afford,” said Carolyn McDole, executive director of Ecumenical Social Ministries. “The lack of affordable housing forces them into apartments they can’t afford. Many single moms with children work minimum wage jobs. They often have to work two jobs to be able to pay their rent, utilities, food and other expenses. Affordable housing for them will be a blessing.”

Greccio’s Executive Director, Lee Patke, emphasized that most of the nonprofit’s 423 apartment units are not Section 8 subsidized housing. But its ability to get grants and keep its debt service low means it can charge 25 percent to 30 percent less than market rates.

“About 90 percent are paid by people who are working hard and doing what they can to get by,” he said. “These are folks out there who are busting their hump, trying to make a better life for their families. They need a stable and supportive place to live.”

Greccio runs a resident enrichment program to help its renters with tax preparation, emergency financial assistance, educational opportunities and other needs.

The purchase of the three buildings is part of a strategic plan Greccio put in place in 2010 to double in size by 2015.

“By bringing on these 72 units, it accomplishes about 30 percent of our goal in a one-month period,” Patke said. The hope is to add about 150 more units within three years.

Greccio will lease the one-, two- and three-bedroom units at Woodbine to people whose median income is 30 percent to 80 percent of the area’s median income of $73,400 for a family of four. People currently living at Woodbine will be assessed to see if they meet the income requirements when their lease comes up for renewal, but Patke expects most will qualify.

Greccio will spend more than $500,000 to renovate its three new buildings, including the installation of energy-efficient windows. Under terms of the Neighborhood Stabilization grant, Greccio will also use funds for landscaping, external rehabilitation and safety measures.

“We want the building to really be the star of the neighborhood,” Patke said. “That’s what stabilization funds are for.”

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