Breaking the stigma: Understanding affordable housing | MyWindsorNow.com

Breaking the stigma: Understanding affordable housing

Emily Wenger
ewenger@greeleytribune.com

Gina Tellez lived in Greeley while raising her three children, but after becoming a single mom and watching two of her children move away, she wanted to give her youngest, Keightlyn, a chance to live in the town Tellez grew up in.

But that wouldn't be possible, because the cost of a home or apartment in Windsor was just too high for her fixed income. She wanted to live close to her mom, who lives at Governor's Farm Apartments, and other family members who stayed in the town.

When her cousin called her four years ago to tell her about Windsor Meadows Apartments, an affordable housing complex built by the Windsor Housing authority, she figured she might as well apply.

She and was surprised and delighted that Windsor, which has an average annual household income of about $70,000 a year, put such an option in place. The town has grown a lot since Tellez, who grew up in Windsor, moved away at 19, and she had heard some residents didn't want affordable housing apartments to come to Windsor. Tellez was worried they might try to block affordable housing, because it might ruin the "façade" of pleasant affluence she felt residents wanted.

She didn't think she had much of a chance, but after a lengthy application process that included a background check, she and her daughter were accepted and moved in.

"It gave me a chance to have a new beginning," she said.

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The problem

Tellez knows there's a stigma surrounding affordable housing. While she hasn't felt it much since moving in, Tellez said her friends and family have told her about the judgment they feel in Windsor.

Many see the town as "uppity," she said, but she doesn't like to dwell on what other people think.

At a Windsor Town Board meeting last winter, more than 20 residents attended to oppose an apartment complex going in near their homes along Highland Meadows Parkway, with rent as high as $2,000 a month.

A resident living close to the property where the apartments were planned, said he felt high-density housing does not belong next to the $600,000-$1 million homes along Highland Meadows Parkway.

"Obviously, if we have a lower-end apartment complex come in here, that's going to bring in even a lower-end of people in to make it affordable," he said.

Other residents said it would bring crime, which Windsor Police Chief Rick Klimek said he hasn't seen as an issue with apartments in town.

But the plan fit with the town's comprehensive plan, which calls for housing diversity, so the rezoning allowing the apartments was approved.

Bill Voegtli, the president of the Windsor Housing Authority, said he heard many of those complaints when he attended meetings with residents in the Windshire Park subdivision, which site just across Windshire Avenue from the Windsor Meadows Apartments.

When Voegtli was working to get approval for the apartments, residents attending the neighborhood meeting were skeptical of the plan at first he said. They didn't want an affordable housing complex so close to their homes. One conversation stands out especially strong.

A Windsor resident told Voegtli they hoped he didn't expect the children living at Windsor Meadows to use their subdivision's pool, which sits next to the apartment complex.

"And we said no, but your children can use our basketball court," he said.

Although Windsor and Severance have higher home prices, Tom Teixeria, the director of the Greeley-Weld Housing Authority, said Greeley and other Weld County residents also need options.

He said he's also encountered pushback from people who assume only negatives about affordable housing residents. Sam Betters, with the Loveland Housing Authority, which works frequently with the Windsor Housing Authority to bring its projects to fruition, agreed.

But they continue to work to ensure everyone who wants to can afford to live in their communities.

"Everybody's just trying to live," Tellez said.

Tara Fotsch said she also knows Windsor needs affordable options, because as manager of recreation for the town, she employs a lot of young adults at the Windsor Community Recreation Center who often can't afford to live in Windsor.

Young professionals she knows often have to have multiple roommates to be able to afford a place in the area, she said.

If rent, Tellez said, is $1,600, which it can be in many apartments and homes in the area, and someone's monthly income is the same as rent sometimes they have to choose between gas in their car and food on the table, or paying the water bill.

Solutions to the stigma

Tara Fotsch, who was a resident of Windshire during the Windsor Meadows planning process and remains in that neighborhood, said a lot of the residents just didn't know much about affordable housing when the complex was first introduced.

But the housing authority put their minds at ease, she said, when it explained residents would have to go through a background check and application process, and an on-site manager would be put in place.

That doesn't happen at many other apartment complexes, she said, and it allayed some residents' fears that the complex would be disorderly.

The grounds of the affordable housing complex are kept to the same standard as the neighborhood, she said, and the assumption the affordable housing would lower residents' home values hasn't come to pass.

Klimek said affordable housing and apartment complexes in Windsor don't automatically mean more crime. With more people living in the space, of course police may seem to visit apartments more often than a single home, but it's proportionate to the number of residents, he said.

Tellez said she feels safe in the Windsor Meadows Apartments, which has always been one of her goals for her children.

Keightlyn agreed.

"We're like family here," she said.

For more

Housing authorities in Weld and Larimer Counties work to provide low to moderate income residents with a place to live, although sometimes they can receive pushback from residents who don’t support affordable housing close to their homes. For more information about the housing options in Windsor, Loveland, Greeley and the area, go to http://www.windsorhousingauthority.org, lovelandhousing.org or http://www.greeley-weldha.org.