In a meeting with the Kiowa County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) last Wednesday, the leadership of the Workforce Housing Project operated by SECED and SCEDD, Michael Yerman and Brent Frazee, stated that the Eads portion of the housing project is now in danger of falling through because available lots cannot be found for development.
According to Yerman, “Eads had the opportunity to build 6 new houses, but three perspective property owners have backed out of selling their lots into the project. That leaves less than 4 new homes to be built and due to the economy of scale calculations within the project, that is not enough to start building in Eads. Ultimately, we need at least one more lot, and preferably two to three, available for purchase.”
Other towns who have already secured their building sites within the project include Onley Springs, La Junta, Las Animas, Wiley, Granada, Walsh, Lamar and Springfield.
As far back as 30 years ago, report after report from various agencies concerned with economic development in Kiowa County and southeastern Colorado have listed, without exception, HOUSING as the number one issue facing our communities. As stated, time and time again, we can’t bring good people into our community, particularly young people and retirement age individuals, without quality housing for them to live in.
Everyone, in every community across the region, but especially in Kiowa County, believes it’s a major problem. People through the years complained, “What are we going to do about the lack of housing?” Those interested in moving back to their hometowns have expressed frustration that there is no decent housing to move back to. It’s an obvious problem—that didn’t have a solution—until the Workforce Housing Project came into the picture a few months back.
Let’s refresh our memory on the Workforce Housing Project and why it is being touted as a unique solution to the local housing crisis.
When the American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) monies started coming down from the feds to the local governments the Southeast Colorado Economic Development (SECED) office headed up by Stephanie Gonzales and the non-profit known as Southeast Colorado Economic Development District (SCEDD), both entities dedicated to bringing economic opportunities to the region, collaborated on a 65-70 unit workforce housing project that would encompass nine communities across six counties in southeastern Colorado that were struggling with the lack of available quality housing. The counties and towns contributed on the average 8% to the project. These contributions came from their ARPA funds and helped pay for the basic infrastructure and regulatory costs associated with such a project. The premise included pooling our resources, bringing in a developer who could use economies of scale to build AFFORDABE new housing in the region and complete the project within a given timeline using multiple crews who would be working on different aspects of building the house including dirt work, flatwork and foundation, electrical, HVAC, plumbing etc.
The project was close to staying on its timeline for completion until the Eads situation put a wrinkle in the process, sort of speaking. And that wrinkle was vacant lot owners in Eads who decided not to sale their lots and thus leaving little opportunity to build a house on one of the many empty lots in the community. Many of these lots have been vacant for years and now it looks like they still won’t be used for anything except either storage in some cases, or mowing and maintaining them, in most cases.
The project needs two lots right away or Eads won’t get any housing within this project. Frazee said, “I’m from here and we really do want to do right by Kiowa County. We start breaking ground in late April or early May and at that time, if we don’t have enough building sites lined up Eads will be skipped. Currently, the project is scheduled to begin work in Onley Springs with Eads the second town of the nine to have the construction crews come in and begin building.
At the meeting in which all three commissioners were present, as was Karl Eikenberg, trustee of the Town of Eads and Hospital board member, Cindy McLoud, Director of Kiowa County Economic Development Foundation (KCEDF), said their board had agreed to sale a lot located on Lowell Street into the project. That leaves one more vacant lot that Eads MUST FIND in order to get at least four houses built—the very minimum needed in order to build here.
It is now the time to commit to selling your vacant lots to the project. We only have 3 lots confirmed, we must have one more (4) or we are out of this project. This has to happen in January, if at all possible so do not wait. Contact Frazee with SCEDD today and he will give you all the information you need. Come on people, here’s an opportunity to fill some vacant lots, make a little money for your property (they are paying fair market value), and build affordable, nice houses for those who dream of living in a newly built home.
Talk to Brent in January or February. Construction begins in May. Construction is scheduled for completion by late 2022. Who knows, by this time next year some of our community members could be celebrating their very first Christmas in their newly built home, or not. It’s up to us!
For more information, download this information document at https://www.seced.net/assets/docs/housing/Attachment-A-Southeastern-Colorado-Workforce-Housing-Feasibility-Study.pdf or go to SCEDD’s Facebook page.