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Durango continues building homes, but important projects unfolding in Bayfield, Ignacio

Regional Housing Authority chairperson reviews developments across La Plata County
A large development project will bring 66 deed-restricted townhomes to Bayfield this summer. The project is called Pine River Commons and targets homebuyers earning 120% area median income. (Courtesy of Brad Blake, project manager for Pine River Commons)

The city of Durango made moves in 2023 to develop more attainable workforce housing units, ending the year with more than 300 units built or under development within city limits and more projects to be considered going forward.

But when it comes to addressing the greater La Plata County community’s housing needs, people tend to focus too much on Durango, Pat Vaughn, Regional Housing Alliance of La Plata County chairperson, said at the Durango Chamber of Commerce’s Eggs & Issues meeting on March 26.

Vaughn said the county’s largest employer, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe, is in Ignacio, and is often overlooked during conversations about housing needs.

He highlighted and commended housing projects going on in Bayfield and Ignacio, and he spoke to what Durango is doing right as the greater community continues to work toward meeting housing needs.

The Pine River Commons is a 66-unit two- and three-bedroom deed-restricted housing project in Bayfield being led by Charlie Albert. The development will target homebuyers earning 120% of the area median income.

Ground broke on the project in October and construction is estimated to be complete this summer, Vaughn said.

“I’d like to commend Charlie Albert for Pine River Commons,” Vaughn said. “He has had to fight a lot of obstacles to try to get that thing underway and to get some state grants. He is not doing this to make a buck. He is doing it because he’s worried about this community and I applaud him for that.”

Cinnamon Heights is another Bayfield project that calls for 30 townhomes, which the town of Bayfield purchased in May 2021. Vaughn said the land will be sold to builders this year through a request for proposals process, and then construction will begin.

The project targets homebuyers earning between 80% and 120% area median income, and not everyone will be eligible, he said. Applicants will be required to have lived in the Region 9 Economic Development District for a year or more and must work at least 32 hours per week within La Plata County.

The town of Ignacio is underway with another project, the Rock Creek Housing Project, which will provide 115 affordable and deed-restricted units. Canyon Construction is slated to begin infrastructure improvements in October and finish up in June 2025.

Turning his attention back to Durango, Vaughn applauded the preservation of West Side Mobile Park, 21134 U.S. Highway 160 in west Durango. He said it will take years to complete improvements at the mobile home park, but the first step – residents purchasing the park – is complete.

He said the best action the city of Durango has taken in addressing the housing shortage was hiring Eva Henson, housing innovation manager for the city.

“She’s very, very capable, and I don’t think the Best Western – the Residences at Durango – would have happened without her involved,” he said.

Mayor Melissa Youssef said the Residences at Durango, a project converting the former Best Western at 21382 Highway 160, is on track to be completed in early 2025.

The project is the first hotel-to-residential conversion in the state of Colorado to use tax credit financing, according to the city. It is also the largest tax credit project in Southwest Colorado.

The project will result in 120 rental units targeting income earners between 30% and 60% area median income.

Youssef said the city’s trial rental subsidy program Leasing for Locals is successful so far, with 30 units targeting income earners between 60% and 80% area median income to be filled by the end of this week.

And, she said the next phase of Three Springs development in partnership with the Southern Ute Indian Tribe could result in another 1,100 units being developed in the Three Springs area.

“We are working very hard at the city of Durango for a variety of housing options for our residents and we are making progress,” she said.

Vaughn reviewed the housing commitments the county and its municipalities made for Proposition 123, a ballot measure authorizing the state to keep money from existing state tax revenues to put toward affordable housing.

He said in total, La Plata County and its municipalities must attain 320 affordable housing units by 2026.

Durango must reach 184 units by then. Bayfield and Ignacio each have a commitment of 14 units. And La Plata County must create 108 units in the three-year window.


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