The wait continues at Frisco’s South End Village development
FRISCO – Efforts to provide affordable housing to Summit County’s working population are designed to make life easier for moderate-income residents, not harder. “Easier” is not how 13-year local Jenny Harris would describe her experience with Frisco’s South End Village affordable housing development.Nearly a year ago, Harris was ecstatic when she won the lottery for the opportunity to buy a deed-restricted unit for $185,000 in the development planned for Belford Street near Eighth Avenue. She and her 14-year-old daughter were living in a cramped condo in Frisco and the new project promised to be more spacious, more attractive and in a stable neighborhood of locals.”It was so exciting,” she said. “I was beside myself.”Eleven months later, Harris is still waiting to move in. Because she was given a “drop dead” closing date for last December, she sold her condo and she and her daughter been staying at a friend’s house since January, with most of their belongings in storage. In addition to feeling the hardship of being without a home, Harris is now worrying about the financial impact of the delay.”Interest rates have gone up a whole point,” she said. “Everything is different now.”The first unit in the project was completed in May and only four have received Certificates of Occupancy to date. Construction problems continue to plague the remaining six units.
Kent Abernathy is one of the lucky few who have moved in. Before finally closing on May 5, Abernathy’s experience was similar to what Harris has been going through.”Sure I was inconvenienced,” he said. “I sold my old place on November 22. After that, I couch-surfed.”The plight of those waiting for South End units illustrates the difficulties faced by many working families who can’t compete with second-homeowners in the housing market. Once she sold her condo, Harris felt she had no option but to wait for the affordable unit to be completed. Competition is often fierce when any deed-restricted home becomes available.”We had 18 families apply for one unit,” Summit Housing Authority (SHA) director Bonnie Osborn said, referring to the most recent unit to open up at SHA’s Ophir Mountain development. Applicants’ names go into a lottery once their paperwork has been completed. The town of Frisco gave the land, valued at $1.1 million, to developers Rob Dick and Henry Burgwyn as incentive for them to build eight deed-restricted and two market homes on the property. Both men had excellent reputations as developers of affordable housing, Osborn said.Frisco officials expressed their frustration with the continuing delays at a town council meeting earlier this spring, but there is nothing the town can do to protect the interests of the buyers. The contract between the developers and the town of Frisco does not require completion of the project until 2008, Frisco community development director Mark Gage said.
The components of the project’s structures were prebuilt by Barvista Homes, a manufactured housing company based in the Front Range. Barvista president Mick Barker said that his company delivered only what was ordered, but Burgwyn said several features of the prefab homes failed to meet state standards.”They (state inspectors) told me the problems were (Barvista’s) responsibility,” he said. Burgwyn was unwilling to give specifics of any reasons for construction delay other than those related to the manufactured housing company.”The units were not correctly placed on their foundations (by Barvista),” he said. “So the equipment used to correct that (problem) did some damage that Barvista then needed to correct.” The components in question were delivered by Barvista last fall and several of the units are still not habitable. The finger-pointing on the part of those involved in the construction continues to bother Harris during her long wait.”Nobody’s taking responsibility,” she said. “If nobody’s taking responsibility, then how can we be sure things are getting done?” Dick said Wednesday he’s sympathetic to those who’ve been waiting and he hopes the project will be completed within the next 30 days. For his part, Burgwyn said that he expects all the units to be completed by August 1.
Harris hopes she won’t have to wait that long. She has to be out of where she’s staying by mid-July. Even if she eventually manages to buy the unit, the whole experience has left a bad taste in her mouth.”I thought it was such an awesome thing,” she said. “And I’m really not excited about it anymore.”Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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