The La Plata Economic Development Alliance announced its second round of catalyst funding last week.
The fund was developed last year by the La Plata Economic Development Alliance and its consultant team, Project Moxie, to identify potential housing projects throughout the county.
The purpose of the predevelopment program is to provide a small amount of funding that can leverage significant resources by assisting a project with early feasibility. These grants help provide funding for feasibility studies, environmental studies, site preparation, market studies, surveys and legal fees.
Early stage costs can determine whether a project ever gets off the ground, according to the Alliance and the Regional Housing Alliance. The catalyst fund received seven applications in second round and awarded three projects.
Two of the three projects chosen were mobile home preservation projects. Funding also went toward projects that will be applying for state resources within the next 12 months.
“In 2023, our RHA members collectively pursued over $16 million in grants from various sources and received almost $5 million all directed toward expanding workforce housing in the area,” said Regional Housing Alliance La Plata County Chair Pat Vaughn. “While three of the four local governments received grants, the funding gap was left at more than $11 million. Our area workforce housing projects need financial support and we are unable to fill the gap needed from state funding and resources.”
The Catalyst Fund was a concept that emerged from the 3-Year Workforce Housing Investment Strategy commissioned by the Alliance and published last year in partnership with a team of housing consultants. Money raised for the catalyst fund comes from city, county and state grants.
The Alliance acts as a facilitator of these funds and the Catalyst Fund Committee makes decisions about which projects will receive money.
The projects awarded were Animas View Mobile Home Park Co-op, Workforce Apartments at Three Springs and Westside/Triangle Mobile Home Park, totaling $195,132.
This was the first round where mobile home preservation projects could be granted funding.
“We knew that there were some preservation projects in the community, and the working group and the Catalyst Fund committee felt strongly that it should be included into the rubric. So this round included preservation for the first time,” said Alliance Deputy Director Sarah Tober.
The Alliance has fundraised $933,000 for the Housing Catalyst Fund and distributed $383,052 to seven projects that will result in 405 workforce housing units throughout La Plata County, according to a news release from the organization.
“As we complete Round 2 of the Housing Catalyst Fund we are already planning for future rounds and how we can raise those much-needed funds to continue providing cost reduction to workforce housing” said Michael French, the Alliance executive director in a news release. “Catalyst Fund recipients are not only receiving predevelopment funding, but are now part of a network of housing and community leaders that are committed to fast tracking and supporting these critical workforce housing projects throughout La Plata County.”
Low housing inventory has continued to hinder La Plata County’s labor force, creating a lack of affordable housing.
Housing availability has gone hand-in-hand with employers struggle to fill vacant jobs. And to top it off, recent unemployment rates have been as low as 2.9%. Recently, Durango Area Association of Realtors’ annual real estate statistics showed the number of homes sold in 2023 were down significantly.
With interest rates currently just above 7%, it makes it harder for prospective employees looking to buy a home. In terms of renting in Durango, Zillow shows only two apartments available under $1,000 per month. This included a studio listed at $950 per month.
“Animas View MHP Co-op is excited to have received a Catalyst Fund Grant to help pay for the engineering for our water/sewer/road infrastructure replacement project,” Animas View Treasurer Lindie Hunt said in a news release. “The co-op is challenged to raise funds to replace our antiquated system while keeping our lot rents affordable for workforce housing and retired or disabled residents. Funding for this type of project is desperately needed for many of the manufactured home parks in La Plata County.”