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Two big ideas for affordable housing in the Springs 

click to enlarge Austin's Community First! village now has 120 tiny homes and 100 RVs. - COURTESY OF MOBILE LOAVES AND FISHES
  • Courtesy of Mobile Loaves and Fishes
  • Austin's Community First! village now has 120 tiny homes and 100 RVs.

In the city's recent history, out-of-town developers have been more likely than locals to build affordable housing from the ground up. Chris Jenkins and Nor'wood Development proved the exception with Greenway Flats, a permanent supportive housing development they're building in partnership with Springs Rescue Mission.

Now, it seems, other locals hope to follow suit. Two well-known Colorado Springs developers have offered up separate affordable housing concepts: One a condo development targeted at millennial would-be property owners, another a "small-home" village for the chronically homeless. Neither developer has submitted plans to the city.

Whether either of these vastly different proposals actually succeeds, they represent a new, shared desire among local developers and advocates to address the shortage of affordable housing in Colorado Springs.

Bijou Condos:

Perry Sanders, the developer behind the Mining Exchange hotel, purchased the Clarion Hotel and Conference Center at Bijou Street and Interstate 25 in December as Bijou Condos LLC. He envisions a housing development at the site to contain somewhere between 75 and 100 condos for people who can afford a "really reasonable" mortgage payment, but can't save up for a down payment.

Sanders says he's spoken to several banks that would be willing to carry a first mortgage and let him carry a second through the Sanders Family Trust — to be named for his father, because "my daddy loaned me the down payment for the first thing I ever did."

What that means is, "You can get in with zero money down if you qualify for a loan with a regular bank," Sanders says. "All you've got to do is qualify for the bank loan and I'll carry up to 20 percent of the total purchase price ... at 6 percent, 30-year fixed financing, non-recourse, which means no personal liability to the people borrowing it."

Sanders' team is still in the process of completing an economic feasibility study, and doesn't have cost figures.

The development would feature a co-working area, pool and courtyard.Sanders says he will also be a minority owner in a new seafood restaurant to open across Bijou Street from the proposed condos.

Village at Sand Creek:

Tim Leigh, of Hoff & Leigh real estate company, hopes to model this permanent supportive housing development — for which he's secured an as-yet-undisclosed location on the east side of the city — after Austin's Community First! tiny home village. Austin's development, which will eventually accommodate nearly 500 people, offers ways for residents to earn an income and pay rent.

Leigh's 250-unit development would be made up of small homes secured on foundations — not technically tiny homes. But it would still follow Austin's model as closely as possible, Leigh says. "What we're proposing is a social altering of the homeless environment in Colorado Springs."

Leigh says he has "sufficient equity and capital" to fund the project without significant outside investment, but is still determining a financial strategy.

City Council President Richard Skorman — who plans to visit Community First! with other city officials in May — cautions that Leigh's proposed project is "just an idea" right now, but says it's "certainly a noble effort on Tim Leigh's part to want to be part of this."

Skorman says another developer has floated the idea of creating a permanent supportive housing development similar to Community First! in El Paso County, but did not offer additional details. Mayoral candidate Juliette Parker is pushing for a tiny-home village for veterans through her nonprofit, MENDA.

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