Waiting time can be long for those seeking wheelchair-accessible rentals

Gazette (Colorado Springs, CO), 2014-08-06


Aug. 06 --People living in nursing homes across Colorado Springs can expect to wait two years before a wheelchair-accessible public housing unit is available, the leader of a local nonprofit said Wednesday.

The issue was among several voiced Wednesday night at a hearing to gauge the housing and community development needs across the city -- a key requirement for Colorado Springs to receive millions of dollars each year in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants.

Among the most-mentioned needs: Increased services and housing for people with disabilities, including more affordable, ground-level or elevator-assessable housing units and more buildings that can accommodate the hearing impaired.

Too often, that housing shortage leaves people stuck in high-priced nursing homes when an apartment would be cheaper, said Patricia Yeager , chief executive of The Independence Center, a nonprofit that aims to help people live more independent lives.

"We try to work with developers and apartment owners to help them make their apartments more accessible," Yeager said. "And we're having some success with that. But we need more apartments."

The hearing marked an early point in the city's development of its new five-year plan for housing and community development projects, which runs from April 1, 2015 through March 31, 2020 .

The plan covers three grants geared toward helping low and moderate-income residents in Colorado Springs , while revitalizing the areas and homes they live in. That generally means areas where the average single person makes up to $39,200 , and a family of four earns $56,000 , according to the city's presentation Wednesday.

The city estimates it will receive $3.3 million from grants during the first year of the plan. The money has typically gone toward a bevy of projects, including developing and refurbishing affordable housing units, building sidewalks, supporting code enforcement and funding nonprofits that help the homeless and children in need.

Over the next five years, attendees on Wednesday also voiced support for a greater emphasis on revitalizing south Nevada Avenue , as well as areas with high levels of child poverty, high police call volumes and areas with more elderly residents. One person called on the city to help address flood plain regulations on the city's southwest side along Cheyenne Creek , which could be hindering development.

City officials are in the process of retooling the way they distribute these grants, in part by focusing on smaller projects that have a greater impact -- rather than spread small amounts of money across a greater area of the city, said Aimee Cox , who oversees the city's housing division.

City officials will also demand that agencies and developers receiving the federal grant money through the city offer more specific data on each projects' impact, in an effort to better quantify whether the projects are working, she said.

"We're really going to be looking for projects that move the needle on a priority," Cox said.

The plan will be developed over the next few months, and another public hearing is scheduled for January. The city expects to submit its final version to HUD in February.

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Contact Jakob Rodgers : 476-1654

Twitter @JakobRodgers

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