This week, April 5-9th, is National Community Development Week. It’s an opportunity for residents to learn more about the many ways that local governments partner with non-profits and foundations to help vulnerable individuals and families in our community overcome challenges by finding affordable places to live, improving their neighborhoods, and preventing homelessness.
Each year, the city receives approximately $5 million in federal grant funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The funds come from the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnership (HOME), and Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) programs. In 2020-2021, the City also received additional grant funding to respond to the widespread impacts of COVID-19. The grants are designed to be flexible, giving the community the opportunity to decide locally where the funds are needed most. Each year, the City’s Community Development Division engages in a robust stakeholder process to establish priority uses for the funds and support key projects with outsized impact. From new affordable housing developments to improved neighborhood safety and essential home repairs designed to keep seniors safely in their homes, the list of noteworthy projects is long and varied.
Over the next few weeks, the City of Colorado Springs’ Community Development Division will share featured stories and projects from across our community that are changing lives and strengthening the fabric of our city. You’ll see them shared on the city’s website, through social media and in a special “Behind the Springs” podcast. Some of the projects we’ll be showcasing include:
Exponential Impact’s Survive & Thrive business assistance program targeted to entrepreneurs in southeast Colorado Springs
The Springs Rescue Mission’s recently completed kitchen and dining facility
Sunshine Home Care’s innovative solution to senior housing
There will be personal accounts as well, like the story of Claudia Deats-Rodgers, a former nun who founded the local nonprofit Greccio Housing. She dedicated her life to the charitable work of her Franciscan order, then as a founder and Executive Director of Greccio Housing, to improving the quality of life for people in need of affordable housing. After her husband passed away, her income was reduced by half. She found herself in need of help, but learned there was a three year waiting list for to receive housing assistance. Now her wait, and that of 53 other low-income seniors, will soon be over thanks to a new 54-unit affordable housing development opening this year. Atrium at Austin Bluffs is developed by none other than Greccio Housing on a parcel of land donated by the City of Colorado Springs with funding through the Community Development Division, the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, and the El Paso County Housing Authority.
Much more is needed. The city’s affordable and attainable housing plan, HomeCOS: Housing our Future, lays out the challenges we face. In addition, Mayor John Suthers has repeatedly emphasized the goal to increase our affordable housing inventory by an average of 1,000 units each year. The region has stepped up in a big way to help meet that goal. 2,861 new affordable rental units are in the pipeline. These include 594 units under construction, 328 units recently awarded tax-credit financing, 857 units in pre-development, and 902 units in the concept stage. In addition to the surge in affordable rental construction, 289 families achieved home ownership through the El Paso County Housing Authority’s Turnkey Plus down payment assistance program in 2020, while 44 more families have been helped through the 1st quarter of 2021. Another 140 apartments and homes primarily occupied by extremely-low income seniors will receive much needed improvements this year through tax credit financing and federal grant dollars.
Altogether, our partners are generating $1.7 billion in local economic impact, supporting development, creating jobs, and contributing to sales tax revenue as the city continues to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Most importantly, projects funded with federal grant dollars benefit vulnerable individuals and families right here in our community. This year, I’m proud to say that our efforts have improved the lives of over 24,000 individuals and families.
Please join me in acknowledging and thanking our community development partners this week! Check out ColoradoSprings.gov/CommunityDevelopment, sign up for our email newsletter, and follow @CityofCOS on social media for the complete list of projects we’ll showcase in the coming weeks.
Together, as our region continues to grow, we can ensure that all residents of our city have the opportunity to participate and thrive.
Steve Posey is the Community Development Division Manager, City of Colorado Springs.