After three years of looking for a home in Denver that she could afford, Darla Patrick was initially incredulous when she got a call about a below-market-rate apartment in Lowry.
“I about dropped the phone,” she said.
Patrick was among the first to move into one of the 71 rentals at The Boulevard One Residences, a four-story complex at 6756 E. Archer Dr. managed by Volunteers of America that opened late last year. Patrick joined Mayor Michael Hancock, officials from Volunteers of America, the Denver Housing Authority and others who made the $20 million project possible at an open house celebration on Tuesday.
The Boulevard sits on the last corner to be developed of what was once the Lowry Air Force Base and is now a neighborhood near downtown of 3,000 homes, restaurants, businesses, government offices and an air and space museum set amid 800 acres of parks and open space. Residents of Boulevard One and of nearby market-rate homes are within walking distance of shopping, a library, parks and recreational trails. Patrick enjoys the walkability.
“What sold me is the washer and dryer in the apartment,” she added, and laughed.
Volunteers of America, a faith-based nonprofit that provides shelter for people experiencing homelessness as well as housing, health and other services across the country, developed and owns Boulevard One with the Denver Housing Authority.
“To be in Lowry is pretty amazing,” said Doug Snyder, Volunteers of America’s top development official in Colorado.
Provisions for housing people who have experienced homelessness and others who need low-cost homes were part of the deal when the federal government handed over land for the Lowry development, Snyder said. Twenty of Boulevard One’s apartments are for people who have experienced homelessness. Volunteers of America offers all Boulevard One tenants financial literacy classes, health care and job placement services. The complex also has an indoor playground and a community garden, as well as access to major bus routes.
The city invested $720,000 in federal housing funds to support Boulevard One, where rents are within reach of households earning no more than half the area median income, which according to the city is up to $32,500 for a single-person household, or $41,800 for a family of three. The Lowry Redevelopment Authority, Colorado Housing and Finance Authority, the state of Colorado, First Bank, Enterprise Partners and the Federal Home Loan Bank of Topeka also contributed to the project.
Planning and raising funds for Boulevard One began in 2015 and construction in 2018. By the end of last year, all the units were full.
In all, Snyder said, Lowry has 1,000 units offered for rent or sale at below market rates in a city where housing costs have grown faster than incomes.
Denver development officials say a third of the city’s households are “housing-cost burdened,” meaning they are spending more than 30 percent of their earnings on housing. Affordable housing projects peg rents at 30 percent of a household’s income.
The October report from the online real estate company Apartment List put Denver’s median rent for a two-bedroom at $1,362, about 1 percent higher than last September and above the national average of $1,189.
“There’s just tremendous demand for affordable housing in the city and the state and across the country,” Snyder said.
Patrick has struggled with the problem in Denver and elsewhere.
“The cost of living here is terrible,” she said. “It’s beyond belief. I don’t know how anybody can raise children, feed a family, nothing.”
After a divorce, Patrick raised her two children on her own in Arizona, working three jobs at one point. Once her children were grown, the now 77-year-old lived for a time in Washington state, where her son had moved, but found rents there high. She moved to South Dakota to be near a brother but wanted to be near her daughter, who had moved to Denver. Someone gave her a phone number for Volunteers of America and she called and left a message over the holidays at the end of 2017. She didn’t get the call back with the good news until the New Year.
“It had been three years of trying for a place that I could afford,” she said, adding that she constantly called to check on the status of her potential home.
“They probably got tired of me because I called every month because I didn’t believe it was going to be possible.”
Now’s she’s surrounded by family photos in a top-floor apartment just down the hall from a deck that has a mountain view. In addition to her own washer and dryer, she likes that she is living among people of all ages. She’d been in a senior housing complex in South Dakota.
“At night, it just cheers me up,” Patrick said. “You hear the kids coming home, and they’re running down the hall and they’re laughing.”