Archuleta County Housing Authority Looking to Expand Mission

By John Egan

The board of directors of the Archuleta County Housing Authority at its meeting last Wednesday, November 8, approved a resolution fully committing the organization to the construction of affordable housing sufficient to meet the community’s needs, and directing its staff promptly to prepare short and long-term plans to accomplish that goal.

You can download the 6-page resolution here.

The resolution recalls the Authority’s formation under Colorado law in 1978, and the powers granted to it by State statues expressly to “provide decent, safe and sanitary housing to meet the needs of low income workers,” and others. It also notes recent information recognizing a strong need currently for such housing in the community, particularly the housing needs study commissioned jointly by Archuleta County and the Town of Pagosa Springs.

The resolution goes on to state the board’s finding that “action should be promptly and vigorously be undertaken by [the Authority] to address the shortage of affordable housing,” and declares a commitment as a matter of policy to “pursue the early and continuing development of affordable housing in Archuleta County consistent with the findings and recommendations set forth in the EPS draft Housing Needs Study of September 15, 2017.”

The Archuleta County Housing Authority (ACHA) was formed in 1978 to develop and manage Casa de los Arcos, a 16-unit apartment complex across from South Park on 8th Street in downtown Pagosa Springs, based on a need identified at that time for affordable housing for seniors. The federally funded HUD facility has been in constant operation since that time serving senior citizens and those with disabilities.

Now that the community finds itself in an era when affordable housing availability is critically low across a broad spectrum of need, last week’s resolution makes clear that the ACHA will respond.

Action by the ACHA to increase the stock of affordable housing in the community has already begun.

“Currently we are in the process of adding eight more units to Casa de los Arcos,” said Sara Ward, executive director of the housing authority, “and we are actively looking at two possible housing projects in Pagosa Springs and one in Archuleta County.”

But that is just the beginning. Last week’s resolution commits the ACHA to developing 30-50 multifamily affordable housing units pursuant to a near-term action plan to be approved by the Board within 60 days. And it also commits the ACHA to formation of a following 5-year plan to continue the expansion of the community’s stock of affordable housing, so long as the need exists.

Ward pointed out that the Archuleta County Housing Authority is equipped to develop or manage all types of affordable housing in Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County, not just senior or disabled housing, and is not limited to HUD housing exclusively.

John Egan, Pagosa Springs Town Council member and chairman of the Archuleta County Housing Authority, said that he and other members of the board of directors have been attending housing meetings for several months and are looking forward to working with other groups to help manage new housing meeting affordable housing standards for rent and purchase.

“We want to create a supply of housing that will meet the needs of those whose incomes cannot compete with the currently high rents in the area.” Egan said that one main objective of the housing authority is to assure that new properties entering the market as affordable housing continue to stay at lower rents so that affordable housing will always be available.

“It’s a big challenge,” Egan said. “There is no one cookie-cutter definition of affordable housing anymore than there is a one-size-fits-all definition of housing needs. We intend to work with everything from tiny homes to apartment complexes.” The housing authority will continue to better define community needs and make every effort to see those needs are met.

Egan stressed that housing needs could be met in part through property donations to the housing authority.

“The authority can accept donated property for which the donor would receive a tax credit.” The tax credit could incentivize individuals to donate land to the Archuleta County Housing Authority and receive federal tax credits for doing so.

For more information about the Archuleta County Housing Authority call Sara Ward, Executive Director of ACHA at 970-264-4828.

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