Home > Case Studies > Durango, Colorado: A City Land Donation Paves the Way for In-Demand Affordable Senior Housing
Durango, Colorado: A City Land Donation Paves the Way for In-Demand Affordable Senior Housing
In recent years, Durango, a small city in southwestern Colorado, has experienced a rising demand for housing that has threatened housing affordability for seniors, who represent the fastest-growing age group in La Plata County. Volunteers of America (VOA), a nationwide nonprofit offering programs and services to vulnerable populations, understood the need for more affordable senior housing and developed Miremonte Apartments in 2020. The city, which invited VOA to develop the project, donated 1.5 acres of land to significantly lower development costs and support seniors’ desire to age in place. The 53-unit apartment building connects seniors to the medical services and natural resources of the surrounding area and has spurred community development and investment activity in the city’s Three Springs neighborhood. Miremonte won a 2021 Novogradac Development of Distinction Award for its impact on a rural community.
Aging in Place with Onsite and Community-Based Services
Miremonte consists of one- and two-bedroom apartments for seniors who are at least 55 years of age and earn between 30 and 50 percent of the area median income. The ground floor includes a community room and resident lounge that serve as social spaces. To facilitate leisurely outdoor activities, the site has a garden that is oriented toward the south to promote year-round comfort. An indoor terrace on the fourth floor offers residents a view of the mountains and a quiet atmosphere for private gatherings.
The onsite supportive services allow the seniors to age in place while maintaining their independence. A coordinator and community administrator facilitate services in accordance with the Volunteers of America National Services health implementation plan. A medical complex is within walking distance of the development. An on-demand transit service, the Opportunity Bus, provides door-to-door transportation to appointments and other essential services, and the development is located on a bus line. Adjacent to Miremonte is a wetland park with walking trails that the city plans to connect to downtown Durango and a regional trail network.
Land Donation for Senior Housing Alleviates Housing Pressure for Low-Income Families
Miremonte was made possible through a land contribution from the city that saved VOA hundreds of thousands of dollars in development costs. The city conveyed the land to VOA for $10. In addition, the project received $12 million through the sale of low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) to Wells Fargo (table 1). Sources of gap funding include the Colorado Division of Housing and the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority (CHFA) Healthy Homes Fund Loan. To qualify for the CHFA loan, VOA incorporated sustainable features that include a solar-ready design and an electric vehicle charging station.
Table 1: Miremonte Financing
|9 Percent LIHTC Equity||$12,020,000|
|CHFA Healthy Housing Fund||500,000|
|Deferred Developer Fee||350,000|
The city provided the land because VOA, which operates another senior housing development and a homeless shelter in the Durango area, could support the city’s efforts to create affordable housing for vulnerable populations. Under the terms of the land sale use restriction agreement, VOA must ensure that the units remain income qualified for 40 years, matching the LIHTC requirements. As the city’s first non-subsidized LIHTC property for seniors, Miremonte helps address the city’s lack of age-restricted affordable housing. When seniors move into the new development, units in other LIHTC properties become available to house low-income families living in Durango.
A Model for Future Developments
The success of Miremonte demonstrated that adapting properties to meet new, more appropriate land use goals can create spaces that better serve the evolving needs of the surrounding community. Approximately 10 years into the development of Three Springs, the city directed its attention to 3 acres within the village-style, mixed-use neighborhood that were originally intended to serve as a wetland and drainage area but had not been used for that purpose. The city decided to subdivide the land and pivot toward affordable housing through its partnership with VOA and Three Springs. According to Scott Shine, director of Durango’s Department of Community Development, Miremonte’s opening has been a catalyst for development in Three Springs, generating proposals for a large apartment building, a car dealership, a grocery store, and another senior housing development. The project exemplifies how cities can use public land to guide investment that builds new services and amenities for the community. VOA is considering adding a 40-unit development on the remaining 1.5 acres adjacent to Miremonte. This second phase would adopt the same financing structure as the Miremonte project, with the city of Durango conveying the land to VOA for $10.