Windsor’s workforce housing project: 10 answers to questions you’re probably asking
December 27, 2012
There’s an old saying that mentions something about Rome not being built in a day.
That sentiment couldn’t ring any truer to John Moore, chairman with the Windsor Housing Authority and the group’s workforce housing development that has been in the planning stages for more than five years.
With final hurdles and paper trails wrapping up and a ground-breaking almost in sight, many Windsor residents still may not understand what the development will look like, where it will be and most importantly, who will live there.
What follows are 10 of the most common questions residents have about the development, which will serve many of the area’s working population in a modern facility equipped with the latest technology, including solar panels and renewable resources.
“Our entire board wants to make this project an absolute home run,” Moore said, highlighting the support from across the community. “We want to show Windsor that no only can we build a quality project, we can run it in such a manner that makes everyone proud that we have it there.”
Information is drawn from an interview with Moore. Additional figures came from public documents and meeting minutes throughout the planning process. All of that information is available through archives on http://www.windsorgov.com.
» 1. Where is this being built?
The project site is near 15th Street, about four blocks north of King Soopers, bordered by Windshire Avenue to the north. A partnership with the developers of the Windshire Park subdivision helped the project become a reality.
» 2. How big is it going to be?
The overall project plan calls for 80 apartment-style units, which will be developed in two phases.
Phase one, which has already been funded and approved, will consist of 44 units. Once additional funds are freed up, construction of the remaining 36 units can begin, though no date is set.
“We felt it was worth going through the whole process to show the town of Windsor all 80 (units)” Moore said, adding that he wants to make sure residents understand the comprehensive and responsible efforts from groups across the town.
» 3. Who is going to be living here?
Since the project’s beginning, leaders have said this development will act as a “stepping stone” for people working in the retail and service industries whose wages may not put them in a position to buy or rent a typical home of their own.
These are the people, Moore said, who ring us up at the grocery store but may struggle to put food on their own table because of high rents. Surveys from different groups on the state level found that upward of 200 units were needed for all of the people struggling with high rents in lower-wage professions in the Windsor area.
Folks must also maintain work in order to be considered and will be reexamined each year. To qualify, residents’ wages must fall between 30 and 60 percent of the average median income, AMI, for the region. In Windsor, the average is about $80,000, Moore said.
Once individuals reach above that 60 percent level, they will be required to look for housing elsewhere.
» 4. What’s going on with the development process right now?
The project entitlements including site plans and zoning requirements are being finalized in a lengthy paper trail that accompanies any major development. Plans went before the town board in November, and final closure on the land is expected in January once all documents are submitted and final details are worked out with the developers and architects.
» 5. When will construction actually start and how long will it take?
Assuming the paper trail gets wrapped up as planned, ground breaking could happen as soon as February. The first month would be infrastructure work, followed by a 10-month build-out process.
Construction could be completed late in 2013 with people able to move in as early as the first part of 2014.
» 6. What about costs?
Most recent figures pin the cost between $8 to $10 million, though more detailed estimates will be available once all paperwork is filed and the bidding and planning processes finish.
Once people begin moving in, rents will vary. Important to note — rent figures are set by the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
» 7. Where’s the money come from?
This is where things get complicated — really complicated.
Simply put, it’s a mixture of local, state and federal funds all managed by Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. This group acts as the “administrative arm” by distributing the funds to worthy developments, which apply for grants throughout the year.
Simply getting considered, let alone approved for the money, is a tiresome uphill battle, Moore said.
Additionally, there are tax credits attached through the federal division of housing. In this case, Wells Fargo put funding into and stood behind this specific project while the Windsor Housing Authority sells its tax credits to that bank.
While all of these things continue behind the scenes, the Windsor Housing Authority will be monitored by Colorado Housing and Finance Authority to ensure the new project is run in compliance with the grant’s requirements, allowing those tax credits to continue.
Eventually, the complete project can be sold from the bank to the housing authority for a mere $1, likely in about 15 years.
» 8. So this is basically welfare housing, like Section 8 or voucher programs?
Simply stated, no.
Section 8 is government subsidized housing often referred to as “the projects” and is reserved exclusively for those people facing extreme financial hardships through a variety of circumstances. Likewise, voucher systems require individuals in need to request vouchers from the housing authority — something Moore was adamant would not be an option in Windsor.
“These are people who have to be earning an income,” he said. “You basically have to have a job to live here. … If you think you’re going to move in here and get cheap rent and tear the place up, you’ve got another thing coming.”
» 9. So how will people apply to live here? What’s it going to take?
Advertisements will run in local newspapers and other area media groups to alert people when pre-qualifying applications are available for anyone hoping to call the development home. The process will be lengthy and likely take about four months from start to finish.
Checks will scrutinize everything from criminal history to current income. As results roll in, candidates will be ranked on a point system, with those who rack up the highest number of points essentially beating out other applicants.
Final guidelines for the point system are not currently in place, though officials have said categories include income, job status and where the person works with special preference given to those people living in Windsor.
“What we’re really interested in is bringing into Windsor, in a long term way, the people who are already working here,” Moore said.
» 10. Is this the answer that Windsor Needs?
No one solution can ever be the save-all people often look for, Moore said. But at the same time, projects like this can make leaps and bounds in a critical market.
“It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “Let’s be honest, it’s barely making a dent.”
Thinking that this will fix many of the problems people in the community have brought forward regarding rent rates would be short sided. Huge concerns from others in the community have highlighted a need for Windsor’s elderly population seeking housing. It has also been said that more resources should go toward the handicapped groups — all efforts Moore said the housing authority has on its radar.
“It’s part of a larger housing picture in Windsor,” he said. “I think this is a real asset.”