A new 53-unit affordable housing project for low-income senior citizens will soon open its doors, filling a major gap in La Plata County.
Construction of the housing project in Three Springs along Wilson Gulch Road started in 2019 and should start seeing residents move in starting in August, said Doug Snyder, senior development director with the Volunteers of America.
“We’re really excited to bring high-quality housing to Durango ... and look forward to welcoming our new residents for many years to come,” Snyder said.
Durango City Council in 2017 approved an agreement with Three Springs to raise money for the city to use on affordable housing projects, opening the door for 100 units of affordable housing for seniors.
As part of the agreement, GRVP, the developer of Three Springs, transferred 3 acres to the city for senior housing. The city then sold the land to VOA for $10 on the basis the nonprofit would receive the tax credits necessary to build a senior housing project.
About 70% of the $13.5 million project, called Miremonte, was generated by tax credits, Snyder said. The rest of the funding was obtained by additional gap funding and loans, he said.
Cris White, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority executive director, said Miremonte is the first affordable rental housing development serving seniors in Durango the group has supported with low-income housing tax credits.
“With a growing senior population and pent-up demand for affordable housing options, CHFA is excited to see this development come to life and serve this community,” White said.
Now, seniors 55 and older who make between $17,600 and $45,180 can apply for the low-income housing. Rents, depending on apartment size, which varies between one and two bedrooms, are between $424 and $895.
Already, the project has generated an interest list of about 25 potential renters, and that’s before marketing has begun, Snyder said.
“We’re about to see how much demand there is real soon,” he said.
State projections show that over the next few decades, the need for affordable housing and creative housing options for seniors will likely spike as the number of people older than 65 grows rapidly.
In La Plata County, 9,745 residents, or about 17% of the population, is older than 65. That number is expected to grow to 19,841, or about 24%, by 2040, according to the state demographer’s office.
But in Durango, there’s only an estimated 170 units of subsidized housing for seniors, not including the VOA’s new project.
“Affordable senior housing in Durango continues to be an ongoing challenge,” said Vicki Maestas, director of the Durango/La Plata County Senior Center. “So we’re very excited to see this happening.”
There are few options for seniors who can’t afford Durango’s high home prices or rent, Maestas said. Some find roommates, others move in with family. In worst-case scenarios, older residents may be forced to move away from their homes.
“I don’t know if 50 (new units) will be enough, but it’s a start,” Maestas said. “We need to continue to expand on that.”
Martha Mason, director of the Southwest Center for Independence, said some seniors have endured up to five years on a waiting list before they can move into housing projects around the region.
“People will just move,” she said. “The fact is, there’s not much out there for a lot of people.”
Snyder said a second phase of the VOA’s project could bring another 50 units to Durango.
For Miremonte, much attention was dedicated to tailoring the living space for seniors.
Throughout the complex are numerous public gathering areas, like a fitness room and kitchens for potlucks. There are walk-in showers in each apartment, and hallways are wider for easier access. And trash and recycling chutes are on each floor.
Snyder said it is also of importance that the apartment complex is only a few blocks away from Mercy Regional Medical Center, as well as other shops and restaurants in Three Springs.
“We really tried to make this feel like home,” Snyder said.
A previous version of this story incorrectly said Doug Snyder with Volunteers of America was a senior development coordinator. He is a senior development director.