Feds boost grants to Springs, Fountain to fix affordable housing, but more needed

March 19, 2014 Updated: March 19, 2014 at 8:17 pm

Unburdened by sequestration-related budget cuts, maintenance funding for hundreds of affordable housing units across the Pikes Peak region edged up slightly from 2013.

Just don't count on that boost to meet all of Colorado Springs' needs, the city's housing authority director said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $797,356 this week to fund maintenance projects for The Housing Authority of the City of Colorado Springs. Last year's allocation was $768,421. Fountain's housing authority received $43,672, compared with $39,305 last year.

The money typically is used for large capital improvement projects, such as new roofs, windows, siding and other items needed to maintain the authorities' affordable housing stock. Smaller entities - such as Fountain's housing authority - also can use it for operational expenses, said Kathy Roby, executive director of Housing Authority of the City of Fountain.

The grants are among $1.8 billion awarded this week by the federal agency for maintenance projects as part of its annual capital improvement process.

It's a fraction of the roughly $25.6 billion needed to fund critical repairs facing the nation's 1.1 million public housing units, according to a 2011 HUD study.

That need has stretched to Colorado Springs, which is still reeling from years of federal grant cuts, said Chad Wright, executive director of the city's housing authority. By comparison, the agency received $1,137,857 for maintenance in 2008.

An inability to fund repairs could affect housing supplies in the future, even as demand increases. Already, wait lists for housing are long.

Nearly 3,000 applicants in Colorado Springs were on the housing authority's wait list for Section 8 vouchers in early February, Wright said. About another 1,200 applicants were waiting to be placed in one the agency's 707 housing units across the city.

"Older properties, especially that are in the service of affordable housing, they have more capital needs," Wright said. "And as our inventory ages, that decline in funding has an even bigger impact over time."

On Wednesday, 244 families were listed on Fountain's Section 8 voucher wait list, Roby said. Slightly more than 100 people were on wait lists for each of Fountain's other two housing programs.

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