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Affordable-housing forum held Wednesday night in Colorado Springs

Panelists took questions from public

Big crowd at affordable housing forum in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - Providing more affordable housing was the topic of a public forum Wednesday night in Colorado Springs.

The forum started at 6 p.m. at The Pinery at the Hill, 775 W. Bijou St.  More than 100 people attended the hour-long event.

Five panelists who work in the housing arena took questions from the public and made remarks on the subject.

The forum was sponsored by the Springs Rescue Mission, Family Promise and the American Association of Retired Persons.

Statistics show that the city has 26,000 fewer affordable-housing units than it needs, but only around 1,000 are scheduled to be built through 2019.

"Whether we can generate 26,000 new units in the next five to 10 years, that's probably unrealistic," said Lee Patke, of Greccio Housing, a provider and builder of affordable housing.  "What we can do is make significant gains on that."

Last month, the city planning commission -- despite considerable public opposition -- approved an affordable-housing project in the Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhood.

The Springs Rescue Mission is currently demolishing a former bowling alley to make room for an affordable-housing project on the mission's campus.

The situation affects not only low-income people but middle-class people coping with rising rents and soaring home prices.

Late last year, new owners of the Emerald Towers apartments, occupied mostly by retirees and disabled tenants, forced the residents to move out so that the owners can renovate the building and charge higher rents in a white-hot rental and home market.

There's still a long way to go, but Steve Posey, who administers federal money for city affordable-housing projects, is optimistic.

"We've seen a higher production rate than we have in the past several years," he said.  "That's a very good thing because some of our seniors, the disabled and the homeless really need that housing."

Patke and Posey were among the panelists at the forum.

Kristi Claybourne was at the Colorado Springs Housing Authority on Wednesday, hoping to qualify for a voucher to help her pay her rent.

"It's risen almost $200 in two years," she said.  "I had to withdraw money from my IRA account because of that, and because I've been sick and haven't worked much.  I'd like to find something more affordable, but looking at the market, there's not much available."

Next Friday, The Pinery will host a panel on homelessness, which is related to the affordable-housing shortage.

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