For senior citizens, Colorado Springs’ dearth of affordable housing has become another frustrating cog in the wheel of aging that seems to spin life backward.
Many seniors live on fixed incomes and don’t drive anymore, so are “particularly vulnerable to rising rents,” said Steve Posey, Housing and Urban Development manager for Colorado Springs.
“They’re often in a position of having to make difficult choices between paying the rent, buying food and being able to afford medications,” he said.
To make a dent in the increasing need, Silver Key Senior Services is moving ahead with plans to build a new apartment complex adjacent to its headquarters at 1605 S. Murray Blvd. in southeast Colorado Springs, said Jason DeaBueno, president and CEO of Silver Key.
“The level of stock of opportunities for seniors is so low right now in our community, and we know this doesn’t solve the entire need, but we hope this is a start for many things to come to provide options in Colorado Springs,” he said.
The nonprofit organization that provides a host of programs and assistance for seniors is preparing to submit an application to the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority for low-income housing tax credits to help fund construction, DeaBueno said.
Silver Key also has been awarded a $50,000 pre-development loan from the Pikes Peak Real Estate Foundation for consultation on the application, he said.
With costs of construction materials and supplies rising exponentially in recent months, an initial 70-unit complex costing $12 million to build has been scaled back to 50 to 60 units at a price to be determined, DeaBueno said.
If all plays out, construction will begin next spring.
Although plans are not solidified, DeaBueno said an estimated 70% of the units would be reserved for tenants who have an income of 30% or less of Colorado Springs’ median, which would amount to about $19,500 annually.
The remaining apartments would be leased to renters who earn between 40% and 60% of the area’s median household income, he said.
The apartment complex will be built to the northeast of the organization’s offices on 3 acres of vacant land. Silver Key purchased the site and the office building in 2015 for about $2 million, according to property records.
The location will enable Silver Key to easily provide other services for tenants available from its headquarters next door, DeaBueno said, such as meals, a food pantry, transportation, legal aid, mental health assistance, a thrift store and other resources.
In fielding requests for assistance, options for senior housing is one of the top concerns, DeaBueno said.
“We’ve had a housing navigator for several years, and the lion’s share of calls is challenges around affordable housing and utilities assistance,” he said.
Local waiting lists for affordable-housing units can be several years long, he said.
As a result, sharing housing with roommates or relatives has become more popular locally, DeaBueno said. Some seniors have relocated to the suburbs and plains, where costs are lower, and others have taken to living in their cars or shelters because they don’t have enough money for a security deposit and aren’t able to afford rent, he said.
“There are not enough places for immediate needs for seniors,” DeaBueno said, “and we know unstable housing increases the mortality rate, with not only economic and social impacts but also functional and health impacts.”
While the venture represents Silver Key's first housing project, the organization has experience in the market, DeaBueno said. Silver Key has provided governance over Senior Heritage Plaza in Golf Acres, a city-managed Department of Housing and Transportation apartment complex, since the 1980s.
The sooner the new apartments can get off the ground, the better, the city’s Posey said.
“The Silver Key project will help fill a critical need for affordable housing for seniors in Colorado Springs and is well-aligned with Mayor (John) Suthers' goal to build or preserve 1,000 units of affordable housing each year,” Posey said.
The proposed apartment building also is “a great example of a well-established local nonprofit taking steps to expand its mission into housing.”