Affordable housing: High demand, short supply

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO/KJCT) -- Finding an affordable home is a top concern for most people. But options are limited for those struggling to make ends meet.

"Ninety-three percent of Coloradans view affordability of housing as their number one concern," said Scott Aker, the chief operating officer of the Grand Junction Housing Authority (GJHA). "The practical reality is that lots and lots of families pay more, and sometimes significantly more than 30 percent of their income."

The GJHA owns and operates 700 apartment units split between seniors, disabled residents, and families who are at 50 percent or below of the area median income. They also issue 1,200 Housing Choice vouchers for low-income families to help offset the cost of apartments they don't own.

But supply doesn't equal demand.

"Some properties have a longer waiting list than others and the voucher waiting list has over 2,000 names," Aker said. "Two-thirds of that waiting list are female head-of-households."

Many are single mothers like LaKeisha Quintana, who was able to move into a Habitat for Humanity home last year. Quintana has worked full time at Enstrom's, but making ends meet before moving into her new home was a challenge.

"It was tough," Quintana said. "We make it work."

The shortage is not unique to the area. The National Low Income Housing Coalition says the nation has a shortage of 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes. Their study found there are 35 affordable and available units for every 100 low-income renter households nationwide.

Habitat for Humanity works with eligible low-income families to build them a no-interest mortgaged home after those who are in the program put hundreds of hours into helping build their home. They often see single mothers looking for help.

"Moms typically have the children so those are extra expenses," said Jennifer Grossheim Harris of Habitat For Humanity. "Also women on average still earn less than men."

Grossheim Harris said many families make ends meet, but can't save for a down payment. She doesn't see people trying to use the system to get a handout.

"There is a stigma to affordable housing," Grossheim Harris said. "That's not what we're seeing in our program."

Aker said it is tough to game the system, and that many who go through the GJHA also use other assistance programs.

"It's not to create long-term dependence but to really provide that short-term stabilization," Aker said.

Quintana said moving into her home last year was a dream.

"It was awesome," Quintana said. "Seeing it from concrete slabs to walls up to the roof on to its done finally."

To learn more about Grand Junction Housing Authority, click here. Montrose and Delta also have housing authorities to help low-income residents.

To learn more about Habitat For Humanity, click here.

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