PEP Gets Update on Essential Housing Initiative

 

March 23rd was the deadline for buyers to sign up for SCEDD administrated, workforce housing contracts in southeast Colorado under a multi-county initiative impacting Baca, Bent, Crowley, Kiowa, Otero, and Prowers counties.  Southeast Colorado Enterprise Development (SECED) Executive Director, Stephanie Gonzales, provided Prowers Economic Prosperity board members with a progress report on signees during their monthly meeting on March 21st.  The housing construction project began last year in an effort to provide housing options for essential workers in the region who could not find a suitable house in their price range, and as such, might not be willing to locate in southeasts Colorado, leaving needed jobs open in such fields as medical, law enforcement, education or management positions.  Contracts have to be completed by March 31st.

She explained that while there were significant numbers for contract housing purchases, they had fallen below expectations.  “We had hoped for a longer window for potential buyers to complete their contract applications, but the developer faced a deadline to lock in a price for construction materials for the project,” she said, adding that there were a few instances of, ‘buyer’s remorse when some people who had indicated they would purchase a house declined to sign on the dotted line.  Buyers in any of the six counties must have a signed contract by the end of the month with an accepted down payment.  Gonzales said another contributing factor could be due to a lack of a demo home as potential buyers used a virtual website to approximate the end result for a house they opted to buy.  Two bedroom homes began at $151,000 and up to $199,000 for a three bedroom model while buyers could include options on their selected house for an additional cost.

While the buyer numbers fell short of expectations, there have been 64 rentals opted for construction and groundbreaking on rental units will begin in Olney Springs this April with more construction to get underway in an eastward direction every three to four weeks through the initial phase of the initiative.

Gonzales said each house will take about 160 days to complete with those under contract for the entire project to be completed by April of next year.  Each community in the six county region made land available for construction, usually as a buy-in for participation to the project.  Any remaining parcels will also be made available to the general public.

In other action, PEP board members approved the recommendations for election of officers for the year with Anne-Marie Crampton replacing Dr. Linda Lujan as president, Rick Robbins remains as vice-president for his final year of affiliation with PEP, Treagon Marquez will remain as secretary and Tyler Thrall as treasurer.  Brady Turpin and Joe Spitz will be at-large executive committee members.

The board will use their April 21st meeting as occasion for their annual meeting as well and plans are underway to host the event at the Arena Dust facility in Granada.  More details will be announced as they develop.

Cheryl Sanchez, PEP Executive Director, said the Business Retention, Expansion and Attraction committee continues to focus on one-on-one discussions with the industrial sector in the county.  “We’ve had seven so far with another one scheduled for next week,” she said, adding that the sessions help explore the needs of local industries, mostly for attracting a needed skillful workforce, especially those with expansion plans.  She said, “The committee keeps track of these concerns to determine if there may be general solutions to specific needs.  If everyone of those businesses expanded the way they want, that would mean 150 more employees in Prowers County. To me, that’s healthier to help people here expand and grow, than if you brought a business in.”

Sanchez said PEP has received three applications for an associate director position advertised recently by the economic development group.  “We’re closing the window for applications on April 15th,” she explained.  The new person will be groomed over a two to three year period for the executive director position with the intention of assuming Sanchez’s directorship.  She said she will begin to focus on outreach projects, bringing the benefits of locating a business in Prowers County to developers around the state.
By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: Chamber of CommerceCity of GranadaCity of LamarCity of WileyConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEmploymentFeaturedHousing

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