City of Durango Making Progress on Housing Crisis

Relief from skyrocketing housing prices may soon be under construction for workers and middle income families in the city of Durango. You’re watching the Local News Network brought to you by Service Master Restore and The Payroll Department. I’m Hannah Robertson. The city of Durango has taken some of the most proactive steps in its history to invest in affordable and workforce housing since it adopted its housing master plan in January, 2018. One of the simplest steps was to cap the number of vacation rentals two years ago to preserve housing stock. As a longer-term commitment to achieve housing goals, the city established the Housing Innovation Division and recently hired a manager. It also joined a multi-jurisdictional effort to revive the regional housing authority. More immediate projects included an award of $500,000 to help residents purchase the Riverview Mobile Home Park on Animas View Drive. Residents now own the park as an affordable housing cooperative, the first of its kind in Colorado. The new 40-unit Espero supportive housing complex sits on land the city leased to Housing Solutions For the Southwest for a dollar a year. And in one of the most complex deals to date, the city announced plans to purchase the Best Western Inn and Suites for $7 million to convert to workforce housing. The city will work with TWG, an Indianapolis-based affordable housing development and management firm to convert the 71-room hotel into apartment units, and add an additional 49 units west of the building. The city expects to receive a $3 million federal grant to offset counts, and TWG has applied for a $7 million Department of Local Affairs housing grant. Assistant Community Development Director Nicol Killian said she anticipates more local conversions in the future.

We’re going to start seeing more of that, in fact we are looking at some code changes to encourage, you know, old hotel conversions, and how do we help? What are some of the things the city can do as incentives to encourage some more affordable housing or workforce housing in the community?

Unlike other Colorado resort communities, the city of Durango doesn’t plan to become a building contractor or landlord, but it will partner with developers to reduce the cost of construction. The Best Western project is a case in point. The city provided the catalyst by purchasing the property until an affordable housing partner could be identified. Eventually TWG will assume ownership and will manage the property.

You know there may be a role down the line where we are involved in property transactions. We’re also looking at land banking and thinking about what does the city own that we can contribute for a development project? We did that with VOA senior housing out on Wilson Gold’s Road. That land was city-owned land. We donated it to VOA. They built 53 units of senior affordable housing. And that’s really a model that we want to replicate is using the assets, land that we have, to facilitate the types of housing we need.

But are these efforts making a difference? Shine says nearly 600 new units have been built during the past three years, and more are in the pipeline.

Partnership mindset is something we’ve really tried to cultivate. We’re not just a regulatory entity, we also provide incentives, we provide support for these types of projects, and so that’s really been a big sort of culture shift is how do we partner with the right types of development? And I think the word’s getting out. We have right now, we just recently counted, the number of residential developments in the pipeline for review, and there are 17 different projects that would, if they all got built as they’re currently designed, would result in over 1,100 new housing units.

You can learn more about the city’s efforts to provide more affordable housing by visiting its website at durangogov.org. Thanks for watching this edition of the Local News Network. I’m Hannah Robertson.

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