Saturday, March 28, 2020

Vacancy issue for affordable housing rentals in north valley

Opportunities exist in the north end of the valley

by Mark Reaman

Several one-bedroom apartments and one two-bedroom apartment in Crested Butte’s affordable housing project, Anthracite Place, are vacant, with one having been open since last summer. Three deed-restricted affordable housing units are available in Stallion Park, located up Brush Creek Road in the Buckhorn Ranch subdivision, as well.

The vacancy issue came up at the February 12 meeting of the Gunnison Valley Regional Housing Authority (GVRHA). There are six two-bedroom units and 24 one-bedroom units in Anthracite Place managed by the GVRHA. The Housing Authority also manages 11 units in the Stallion Park subdivision south of Crested Butte.

“It sounds like there are some units without people living in them,” said GVRHA board member Jim Schmidt. “Have we contacted everyone on the waiting list?”

GVRHA executive director Jennifer Kermode and housing specialist and manager Chris Peterson said the organization doesn’t keep a waiting list anymore since it actually can slow down the qualification process. Instead, when a vacancy arises in Anthracite Place, the GVRHA advertises in hopes of attracting renters.

Peterson anticipates two of the units to be filled shortly since the GVRHA is in the process of confirming applicant eligibility, but she said one has been vacant since last July. Peterson joked at the board meeting that she thought that particular unit must be haunted.

To qualify for that unit, the renter must make less than 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI). “That means the maximum income for a one-person household is $24,850 annually,” explained Peterson. “If someone is working full-time, year-round and makes more than $11.71 per hour, they are over the income limit. And it’s very hard for someone to survive on just $11.71 per hour here, so it’s tough to find a qualified applicant. Our files are audited annually for compliance with the strict rules that come with a Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) project, therefore we jeopardize the financial investment ‘stack’ used in getting the building developed if we ‘fudge’ on income. With minimum wages rising, it’s becoming more difficult to fill the lower AMI apartments.”

Kermode said qualifying renters for Anthracite Place is not a simple process since it is a LIHTC project that must meet federal guidelines. This requires a large amount of paperwork.

“We work with people to try to get them in the units but there are several things that come into play,” Kermode explained to the board. “First, they have to sign a minimum of a one-year lease. We think that puts off some people and we are looking at the possibility of offering six-month leases. Second, they have to put together a lot of paperwork and that’s a lot of work on their part. Third, you can’t smoke cigarettes or marijuana on the property and that puts some people off. And fourth, Anthracite Place doesn’t allow dogs. I also think that this time of the ski season, most people have stable housing if they are here.”

On the bright side for tenants, the chances of a big jump in rent are slim. “Rents at Anthracite Place have seen almost no increase since the project was completed in 2016,” explained Kermode. “We’re only allowed to increase rents by the change in AMI each year; the average increase in AMI in the county is .2365 percent per year. Thus, we can’t increase rents enough to always keep up with the increase in costs to manage and maintain the property. This dilemma works in favor of prospective tenants. They can be fairly certain they’re not going to see huge jumps in rent as they could in a free-market unit.”

To move into the complex, the GVRHA requires first and last month rent along with a security deposit that can be paid out over three months. Rent depends on income. So if a qualified renter makes less than 50 percent of the AMI, they will be charged $644 per month. That includes utilities. If a single renter makes more than 50 percent of the AMI ($24,850) but less than 60 percent ($29,820), the rent is $779. The rent on the vacant two-bedroom unit is $933 per month.

GVRHA board chairman Carlos Velado said renting those units is different from having a free market unit for rent. “It’s the nature of a LIHTC project. There is lots of red tape and roadblocks that make it more difficult to fill those units than otherwise,” he noted.

Peterson said the vacancies are being advertised in both Crested Butte and Gunnison.

The GVRHA also manages 11 units in Stallion Park in Buckhorn Ranch. Those are deed-restricted as well but higher income limits are allowed than in Anthracite Place. Of the 11 units, three are vacant at the moment. Peterson said a three-bedroom/2.25-bath townhome is available for rent to local workforce employees and the rent is dependent on income. She said there are two two-bedroom condos being refurbished to be sold later this spring. She said the GVRHA will post on its website and notify those on its “interested list” when that happens.

To get on the “interested list” call (970) 641-7900 or email cpeterson@gvrha.org. “We’ll also notify them of other housing opportunities as they come available,” Peterson promised.

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