Good luck finding affordable housing in Southeast Colorado Springs.
Rent for Southeast Colorado Springs one-bedroom apartments are around $1,200 per month, according to bestneighborhood.org.
“Colorado Springs is such a popular and livable community right now,” said Steve Posey, Colorado Springs Community Development Division manager. “One of the impacts of the population growth that we’re seeing from the growth of employment and in our industries, is more people come to live here. As that happens, housing costs continue to go up.”
From 2010 – 2020, Census data shows Colorado Springs had an influx of more than 60,000 residents.
During that same period, data from the Apartment Association of Southern Colorado noted average rent in Colorado Springs increased from $710 a month to its current levels, more than a 100 percent jump in a decade.
In Southeast Colorado Springs, rent ballooned from $598 to its current mark, also more than a 100 percent increase.
“We have so many people who are moving into the Colorado Springs region that we don’t have enough housing and that’s not just apartments, that’s also for single-family housing,” Posey said. “There just aren’t enough houses. And until we start catching up, the amount of housing that is available is going to remain at a pretty high cost.”
The human element
Despite finding a sustainable living situation, Gladys Merely still wound up in predicament.
Merely, who is retired, moved into Prospect Park Apartments on Union Avenue in 2015 for its affordable pricing. She said the complex, a 55-and-older community at the time, charged $550 per month, including utilities.
This fell well within Merley’s fixed income budget of nearly $1,100 per month.
In 2017, the previous property owners, Fifty-Five Plus LLC., sold the property to Latitude Fifty Five Plus for $2.75 million, according to data from the El Paso County assessor.
Merley said once new ownership took over, rent increased at the complex.
“Since then, my rent keeps going up and now I pay around $1,060-$1,100,” Merley said. “I have retirement, social security, my pension and my kids help me pay rent. Sometimes my kids give around $300 - $500 for everything here. It just depends on what I need from month to month.”
As of 2021, rents at Prospect Park range from $925 - $1,195 and are no longer available only to those 55 and older.
Colorado Springs Independent’s Pam Zubeck reported Ithaka Land Trust came under fire after sales of nearly half of its 21 properties to a single developer at below-market prices. The nonprofit’s original goal was to provide permanent housing for low-income residents. Ithaka went from housing between 100 – 150 people in 2017, to, as of its 2019 data, housing 100, Zubeck reported.
Where’s the limit?
The continual rent increase creates concerns for Southeast residents. According to ApartmentGuides.com, in January, rent for a one bedroom in Southeast Colorado Springs was $1,024, a 23.87% year-over-year increase.
“Unfortunately, I don’t see housing costs coming down anytime soon,” Posey said. “When you’re talking about affordable housing for that group, that would mean you’d want to be renting an apartment somewhere around $1,000 a month or less.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordable housing as, “Housing on which the occupant is paying no more than 30 percent of gross income for housing costs, including utilities.”
Posey said the average area household income in the Southeast is $39,832. That’s important because someone making $40,000 with a $1,220 monthly rent is feeling a financial squeeze — to the tune of 27 percent of their income.
“I think as we move through 2022 and we start to see a few more of the apartments actually get finished and leased, rents will slightly come down,” Posey said. “But I don’t think they’re going to drop back down to that $1,000-a-month level. We’re in a market right now where those rents are going to stay pretty strong.”
Building the Southeast
Posey and members of the Colorado Springs Community Development Division continue to develop affordable housing situations for those located in the Southeast.
In 2019, he told Colorado Springs Business Journal the Colorado Springs Community Development Division had 700 units in the pipeline and they have fulfilled that promise.
“In 2018, Mayor [John] Suthers set this goal of building or preserving 1,000 units every year,” Posey said. “We are meeting that, in fact, we’re exceeding that. We’ve got nearly 2,800 units in the pipeline right now. Over 1,000 of them are just in Southeast Colorado Springs scattered across about seven different projects.”
Those projects include: Draper Commons, Shooks Run, Paloma Gardens, Academy Heights, Pinnacle Point, Village at Solid Rock and Bentley Commons.
The projects, costing more than $221 million to construct, are expected to be completed in 2023 and will add 1,054 units to the Southeast.
Unit sizes will include three-bedroom spaces, but the majority will be studio and one- to two-bedroom apartments.
“It’s very encouraging to see this level of production and this number of multifamily units,” Posey said.
Posey expects average rent at those buildings to be around $945 a month, which is considered affordable to someone making $37,800 per year, or $18.17 an hour.
However, Posey said he recognizes some residents still need assistance. Renters struggling to pay rent have the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.
The CARES act, established in March 27, 2020, in response to the coronavirus pandemic, aims to help those “who have been unable to pay rent due to financial hardship caused by COVID-19,” according to state officials.
Renters can review criteria listed on Pikes Peak United Way’s website or call 2-1-1 for additional information on rent relief.
“It is important that people know that rental assistance money is still available,” Posey said. “If they are struggling with back rent that hasn’t been paid or they are recently unemployed and don’t know how they’re going to make their rent in the coming months, reach out and tap into that assistance There’s about half of it still available. Several million dollars that folks can use to get that help to get through the first part of 2022.”
Pam Zubeck contributed to this report.