Affordable housing: what it is and who wants to get on the waiting list for it
GRAND JUNCTION – More than 1,000 people will spend the holidays on the Grand Junction Housing Authority’s waiting list for housing assistance. The waiting list has carried at least 1,000 names of people seeking affordable housing at any given time for the past decade, said GJHA Executive Director Jody Kole. The current list has 1,300 to 1,400 names on it, Kole said. “We’ve always had high waiting lists the whole time I’ve been here, and I’ve been here 16 years,” Kole said. Kole said there’s no “typical” amount of time a person spends on a waiting list, but current residents living in the Grand Valley get priority over people looking to move here. The first step is getting a voucher; that gets a person off the waiting list. Once someone has a voucher, he or she needs to find a place to live, the next step in the process. Even if someone gets off the list and receives a housing voucher, Grand Junction’s low vacancy rate could delay them from finding a place to live, Kole said. “The challenge now is many with vouchers can’t find a place to rent because vacancy rate is so low right now. A normal rental market would have a vacancy rate of 5 percent. Currently our vacancy rate is in the neighborhood of 1 percent … for any rental units in market, whether affordable or market rate,” Kole said. Affordable housing is in high demand, but it’s not always understood. The housing authority defines affordable housing as rent and utility costs that total no more than 30 percent of a family’s gross monthly income. Affordable housing is generally meant for people earning less than 80 percent of a city’s median income. That means $30,200 for one person to $56,900 for an eight-person family in Mesa County. There are several ways to find affordable housing or seek assistance, Kole said. Subsidized housing is one method. Deep subsidies, Kole said, offer a place for someone to rent no matter how low their income goes, while shallow subsidies keep rent at the same level no matter what happens to a tenant’s income. One type of subsidy, federal Section 8 vouchers, can be tenant-based or unit-based. Unit-based vouchers stay with a property. Tenant-based vouchers stay with the voucher-holder and travel with that person wherever they move in the country. These types of vouchers allow people working through the Grand Junction Housing Authority to live in homes in surrounding areas like Clifton, Fruita or Palisade. Another type of subsidized assistance comes through the low income housing tax credit. Kole said this method is funded mostly by having major organizations put their money into a community or nationwide pool with money from other organizations. This spreads money around to help keep housing affordable and the corporations get some money taken off their tax bill. The housing authority offers subsidized housing at select locations and at buildings Ratekin Towers and Walnut Park, which have one-bedroom apartments. The housing authority also offers affordable housing at Linden Pointe, Crystal Brook Townhomes and Lincoln Apartment Homes. Linden Pointe and Lincoln Apartment Homes have one and two bedroom apartments. Crystal Brook has one to four bedroom townhouse-style apartments. Crystal Brook and Linden Pointe are tax credit properties, meaning a person’s rent is based on their income. A family must earn less than 55 percent of the area median income for Mesa County to live in either one of these places. Under that stipulation, income can range from $20,735 for one person to $39,105 for an eight-person family, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development guidelines from March 20. Lincoln Apartment Homes has market rate apartments, meaning they cost less to rent than a landlord could conceivably charge in the current housing market. The housing authority’s Web site (www.gjha.org) offers a link to http://www.coloradohousingsearch.com, a search engine directing people to affordable homes they can buy or rent in Colorado. A search of the site Tuesday revealed just one Grand Junction property for sale – a $217,900 two-bedroom, two-bath home. The site also listed eight places to rent in the city. Three of the eight rental properties had waiting lists. Seven of the rentals ranged from $510 to $640 a month. The eighth, for a wait-listed retirement community, had a negotiable rent price of $25-$501 a month.
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