Quarterly Message from the Executive Director
Well friends, it’s been well over a quarter since our last “Quarterly message.” I am pleased to offer an update on what has been a fast-moving, challenging, and exciting time, although our separation from so many friends and colleagues also made it a uniquely isolated time. Nonetheless, we enjoyed and marked many milestones.
Demand for affordable housing has never been more obvious. With so many of our fellow citizens and even family members impacted by unstable jobs and rapidly increasing housing costs, the importance of stable, safe, and affordable housing became undeniable. Pressure to produce more housing while our community grapples with the root causes of housing UNaffordability has increased Greccio’s focus on bringing more units online. As a Community Housing Development Organization, our pipeline of projects has grown significantly during this time. We currently have 4 major housing developments in various stages of development, which will take our portfolio to around 1,000 in the next few years. We will need your support, encouragement, and advocate voices to bring these to fruition!
The next property to open will be the Atrium at Austin Bluffs, a 54-unit senior development at the corner of Austin Bluffs and Templeton Gap roads in northeast Colorado Springs. Thanks to fantastic architectural and construction teams, Kephart and Taylor Kohrs, Greccio will be proud to present an incredible property to the community in late summer – on time and on budget! On my last walk through the building, I could clearly see the community feel our future residents will enjoy, all due to great design and attention to every detail of how the space will function. Many concepts for community space were suggested by our own residents and by visitors to the Senior Center during the design phase. Their ideas will have made an enduring difference in the lives of future residents for generations.
During this time, we’ve had modest celebrations of important milestones.
- Last summer, Greccio’s 30th Anniversary was celebrated with a parking lot “Block Party,” socially distanced and safe (!), with live music, games, food trucks, and more. Former Founder and Executive Directors, Claudia and Rich, each brought back wonderful memories and fond recollection of the leaders Greccio was fortunate to have – what an incredible 30 years it’s been!
- In September, we marked the conclusion of a meaningful career of our Finance Director, Jim Ganyard. Jim is a special man who brought expertise, stability, humor, and authenticity to our office for over 5 years. We miss him every day. The addition of Kayleigh Hudson as Controller softened the blow, though, and we hope she enjoys Greccio as much as we appreciate her.
- Last fall, Hayley Suppes and Laura Yassa secured over $300,000 in emergency rental assistance from the City of Colorado Springs and its CDBG-CARES Act funding. Greccio residents and others in Colorado Springs whose incomes were lost due to Covid shutdowns avoided the threat of homelessness or permanent financial damage. Our award-winning Eviction Prevention Program distributed funds to those who qualified with the utmost efficiency. We are very proud to be a foundation of housing stability and a positive impact in our community.
- A little under the radar was the announcement of Summer Tungseth as our new Programs Manager. After 2 years with Greccio, Summer stepped into the Manager’s role with the enthusiasm, heart, and energy that resulted in immediate improvements, and during Covid, no less! Community Gardens are being prepped and ready for sowing, and up next is a re-commitment to our popular Grab-and-Go libraries.
- And just this spring, the community was let in on the secret of how special Claudia’s story is, with a feature on Rocky Mountain PBS. If you missed it, you can find it here: Affordable housing trailblazer returns to services she helped create (rmpbs.org) A Trailblazer, indeed! May we always stay true to Claudia’s heart and vision.
And during the pandemic, our staff have endured. Working tirelessly, though often very tired, our team demonstrated great professionalism and endurance. While several team members unfortunately contracted Covid, strict distancing, masks, targeted remote work, and strict cleaning procedures resulted in NO OFFICE SPREAD! Patience and adherence to well-established procedures brought us safely through the height of the pandemic. A spring-cleaning and organization day in late April paved the way for re-opening of our lobby to walk-in guests on May 3. With hopes and prayers for continued improvement in the infection rates, we hope to welcome you back to our offices soon!
We are as optimistic as ever about our future. With a multi-year, multi-million dollar Housing Preservation Project (more news to come), new projects with hundreds of new units underway, Board Strategic Planning underway, and a 5-year staffing plan being developed, we are not only optimistic, but are confident in plans and preparation for the work ahead.
As always, THANK YOU to everyone who has cheered, donated, advocated, and remained friends of Greccio Housing during our Covid-induced separation. We need you now as much as ever, and hope to get back to those in-person celebrations and marking of milestones very soon.
Wishing you all peace and good health –
Lee Patke, Executive Director
FAQ - The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: How is all that going to fit on such a small piece of land?
The 1.14 acre property is adequate for the building and required parking for the senior residents. We are working with experienced architects and land planners to ensure all codes and requirements are met. Plans are not yet final, and will be available for review during the City’s Land Use Review process. Update 11/22/19 – Variances are being requested for certain set-backs so that parking in addition to minimum requirement is available. Plans are available for review during the City’s Land Use Review process.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Why won’t the City sell the land and use the money to fix more roads and potholes?
The parcel of land was donated to the City by a developer with the condition that it be used specifically for a “public benefit.” By donating the land to Greccio for this development, the City is helping address a shortage of affordable housing for low-income seniors; achieving the public benefit intended. City Council approved the agreement in March, 2018. Land transfer will occur after all approvals and financing are in place.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: What about the traffic impact on the neighborhood?
Traffic counts for the intended population (senior residential) are typically low impact, and much lower volume compared to other types of uses (retail and commercial).
A 3rd party Traffic and Transportation Consultant was hired to professionally analyze traffic impact of the project on the adjacent roadways; the complete analysis can be found here.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: There is no bus route on Austin Bluffs – how will residents get groceries or go to medical appointments?
For those without vehicles, there are transportation option from numerous providers in the community. Greccio is committed to providing weekly grocery access from current resources, and to advocating for additional bus service in this underserved area. Applicants to Greccio always know the resources of any property prior to signing a lease, and have choice to select the location and resources that are right for them.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Is this another “taxpayer subsidized facility” for “taxpayer subsidized residents?
Low-Income Housing Tax Credits were implemented in the Reagan era (1986) to incentivize for-profit companies to invest in affordable housing. The investor receives future tax credits, and the community gets affordable rentals for its residents.
Around 15% of Greccio’s residents receive ‘Section 8’ housing assistance, and
half of those, or 37, are at 2 “project based” properties. This will not be a “project based” property, but may have some renters who receive housing assistance. With similar ratios, about 5-7 of the 54 apartments may have residents with housing assistance.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Can someone rent the apartment, the sublease it or move others in that don’t meet qualifications?
No, properties with income restrictions such as this are often more strict than the general market about supervision, subleases, and unauthorized roommates. There will be on-site staff, Resident Resources, maintenance, regular supervision, and security cameras. Only those who qualify and are on the lease are allowed to stay.
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: I’ve seen some of Greccio’s properties – will this property be the same type?
Most of Greccio’s early complexes were developed by acquiring older, distressed properties and renovating them. 3 are even over 100 years old (historic or Victorian)! Newly constructed affordable housing competes visually and functionally with all but the highest income market rate properties. Chances are you’ve seen newly constructed (2000-present) affordable housing, and had no idea it was “affordable.”
The Atrium at Austin Bluffs: Is the City co-signing a loan for this development?
No, the Private Activity Bonds (PAB) are a debt tool that Greccio will use to temporarily fund the development until repaid. The City is not party to the debt and has no financial obligation; it is only the issuer of the bonds/debt. These PABs are set aside specifically for affordable housing developments, and cannot be used for anything else.