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Second phase of Lumien Apartments in Durango will start next year

Affordable housing units will serve low-income residents

The second phase of the Lumien Apartments on 32nd Street in Durango will be built next year, helping fill a gap for affordable housing.

Construction on the 36-unit building is expected to start in the spring or summer, said Bob Munroe, a partner with Denver-based Solvera, the developer of the project. Residents must qualify for the housing based on their income. The building will remain designated as affordable housing for 40 years.

Frances Dance, who moved into the first phase of Lumien when it opened in 2015, was pleased to learn construction of Phase 2 will begin soon.

“The thing is, we need to get more housing for people,” she said.

Dance, who suffered a brain injury when she was born, has worked hard to learn how to live on her own. She lived in Tucson, Arizona, before moving to Durango to be closer to her sister.

Dance lived with her sister for a little while, but she likes having her own space.

“It’s very important for me to be independent. I enjoy it,” Dance said.

She also appreciates living near city bus services, which allows her to commute around town.

The second phase of Lumien will include nine units for permanent supportive housing for those experiencing homelessness and disabilities, said Megan Herrera, a spokeswoman for Colorado Housing and Finance Authority.

Axis Health System will provide services to some residents, and the building will have space for residents to meet with health care providers outside their homes in a neutral area, Munroe said.

“We have the potential to really help the neediest people to stabilize their lives,” said Lisa Bloomquist Palmer, executive director of the Homes Fund. The nonprofit is working with Solvera to advocate for affordable housing in the Durango area and may help finance the new building.

The project was recently granted low-income housing tax credits by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority in September, which made construction possible.

“The only way that these deals could really pencil out in areas like La Plata County are to have the 9 percent tax credits,” Bloomquist Palmer said.

Banks and others will buy the tax credits, and that will infuse cash into the deals, said Steve Johnson, director of community development with CHFA.

Tax-credit financing is responsible for 90 percent of all new affordable construction nationwide, he said.

The Homes Fund may be involved in a loan for Lumien because tax credits alone are not enough to build the project, Palmer said.

The Lumien project was one of the 12 projects out of 28 applications to receive funding from the state, according to a news release.

It was competitive in part because it was the second phase of an existing project and the infrastructure was already in place. The state took into account the rising cost of rent and buying a house, Johnson said.

“The demand for housing in Durango is just extraordinary,” Johnson said

To encourage more tax-credit funded projects, a community can try to lower parking requirements and make sure the approval process for the project is predictable, he said.

“We want to know the community is going to be supportive of the project,” he said.

Volunteers of America submitted an application to CHFA this year for a senior housing project in Three Springs that did not receive funding. However, it’s not unusual for a project to have to submit an application multiple times, and the VOA plans to apply again, said Doug Snyder, a VOA senior development director for Colorado.

“It just part of the process to make several attempts,” he said.

VOA plans to build a 100-unit complex in two phases, he said. The first phase could have 46 units and the second phase could have 54 units.

“There is a big void and a gap for age-restricted senior housing in Durango,” he said.

The new Lumien apartments are also expected to be in high demand. The 50 existing units are 95 percent full at all times, Munroe said.

mshinn@durangoherald.com

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