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Affordable housing solutions from other cities

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Salt Lake City, Utah - SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
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  • Salt Lake City, Utah

In October, Colorado Springs released an eight-step Homelessness Action Plan to address possible strategies the city could use to get people housed. Some suggestions are based on steps other cities have taken, including a homeless-to-work plan in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and an ambassador program in San Antonio.

A goal of the action plan is to develop a comprehensive affordable housing plan, which Steve Posey, the city's Housing and Urban Development program administrator, says will help give "a sense of what the housing needs are for ... different parts of our community and then develop some strategies that would advance housing that would meet the needs of each of those groups."

The action plan doesn't go into detail about what those strategies might entail. But other cities across the country have successfully implemented programs to make a dent in their own affordable-housing shortages, and could serve as examples for Colorado Springs.

We asked Beth Roalstad, executive director of housing nonprofit Homeward Pikes Peak, to point out some examples.

Tulsa

Several years ago, the city "was able to vastly increase its affordable housing through some very creative partnerships with the Mental Health Association of Oklahoma," Roalstad says. " ... They basically acquired a lot of distressed properties and did some rehab."

The association's "Building Tulsa, Building Lives" capital campaign raised $54 million of public and private funds to purchase more than 1,000 housing units, according to the association's website. The model involves using "public dollars to raise private dollars and vice versa," the website says.

Los Angeles

L.A.'s Skid Row Housing Trust formed in 1989 in response to the disappearance of residential hotel apartments. The trust worked to renovate dilapidated hotels into affordable housing and helped pioneer permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless and people with disabilities.

"L.A. is such a huge city so it's hard to draw that comparison to Colorado Springs, but if we're looking for innovative solutions I think the Skid Row Housing Trust did great things," Roalstad says.

Austin

While Roalstad points out that Portland's Dignity Village campground is often held up as an example, she says "our community doesn't have the appetite for transitional housing that looks like tiny home villages." However, she seems to think Austin's model — the 51-acre Community First! Village developed by Mobile Loaves & Fishes — might be more palatable in Colorado Springs.

The village offers 120 tiny homes, 100 RVs and 20 canvas-sided cottages, its website says, and will accommodate more than 200 people when it reaches capacity. Micro-enterprise programs such as gardens, an art studio, and auto shop allow residents to earn an income and pay rent.

Salt Lake City

The city was one of the first to adopt the permanent supportive housing model, now in use across the country by local governments and nonprofits such as Homeward Pikes Peak. Such a model, Roalstad says, entails acquiring property to provide housing first and wraparound services second.

It's a proven solution: Salt Lake reduced its homeless population from nearly 2,000 to 200 in 10 years, NPR reported in 2015.

"Colorado Springs is lagging behind other cities in that implementation model, but we're catching up," she says, pointing out that the 65-unit Greenway Flats apartment building by Springs Rescue Mission and Nor'wood Development Group (due for completion in spring 2019) will be the first single-site permanent supportive housing development in the city.

Meanwhile, Homeward Pikes Peak is in the pre-development stages for a 58-unit development that Roalstad says is anticipated to break ground next December.

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