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Chaffee Housing Trust Annual Meeting Honors Chaffee, Lake “Heroines of Housing”

The Chaffee Housing Trust works to provide affordable housing in Chaffee County

The Chaffee Housing Trust (CHT) held its annual meeting on Wed., Feb 22 at the A Church in Salida. Led by Executive Director Read McCulloch and Homeownership Program Director Claudia Palzkill, attendees included the full board of directors along with several CHT homeowners/lessees.

Though perhaps not widely known here, the CHT expanded their services beyond Chaffee County to Lake County in 2021. Since then they have steadily been increasing their outreach efforts and program awareness, as well as working within the Railyard, a 38-acre project on the northeast side of Leadville.

Heroines of Housing

Kristi Galarza, Lead Housing Facilitator of Lake County Build a Generation. Courtesy photo

Recognizing Lake County, McCulloch presented the first Heroine of Housing award to Kristi Galarza, Lead Housing Facilitator of Lake County Build a Generation. Described as ”the pillar of the housing movement” in Leadville, Galarza has been “leading grassroots efforts since 2019.”

She spearheaded the 2A ballot issue campaign which provides $250,000 annually from lodging taxes which has funded their new regional housing authority. In addition, Galarza manages efforts to stem homelessness and serves on other panels.

“Without Kristi, these things would not be happening,” said McCulloch.

After receiving a coveted ‘Wonder Woman’ action figure (“complete with removable sword and lasso”), McCulloch thanked Galarza for helping CHT do what they do in Lake County.

“Having a house is real important”, Galarza said. “When you hear that 29 people in Lake County do not have a home and are sleeping out here in the cold, it’s really hard. We’re working on stuff that takes years and years to implement; it’s difficult [for all of us]. She thanked McCulloch for his counsel and for helping her see things through.

CHT Courtesy photo

The second awardee was Chaffee Housing Authority (CHA)Executive Director Becky Gray, who is leaving that position in March to relocate to Kansas. Unable to reach the traveling Gray by phone, McCulloch acknowledged her multi-year efforts with the Office of Housing through the creation of the CHA, setting in place an infrastructure and programs that the CHA board and their next Executive Director can take off from.

“She had to bring together three different governments who weren’t necessarily talking with each other. It was a Herculean task,” said McCulloch, acknowledging the extra effort she made to help with the work of the CHT.

McCulloch then gave a shout-out to key staff member Claudia Palzkill, who joined the CHT at the onset of COVID. Working in two languages, Palzkill “does all the heavy lifting with clients … the bottom line is that [Claudia ensures that] all our clients get treated with dignity and respect, online, in person, and in meetings in parks and around town.”

Attendees also welcomed VISTA Volunteer Clara Hernandez, originally from Bogota, Columbia who “brings specialized experience from work in large and small companies.” Hernandez will assist Palzkill in ongoing client outreach as well as tracking CHT progress towards their program goals.

Promotores Program engages residents in CHT homebuyer program in Lake County

Segueing into presenting the CHT 2022 Annual Evaluation Report, McCulloch introduced Christian Luna in Lake County, the newest member of the CHT “Promotores” or advocate program.

According to the report “Promotores” is a culturally-relevant strategy designed to engage residents in the Homebuyer Readiness Process. Promotores are bilingual community residents who provide outreach and support to income-qualified households (80-100 percent AMI) interested in preparing for home ownership.

The program is designed to increase participants’ financial well-being, prepare them for home ownership, and enable individuals to attain, retain, and improve housing. Luna works to connect with local organizations to learn about their CHT needs. He answers program questions, assists potential CHT clients with completing applications, helps them pull their credit reports and assists with marketing efforts.

By the numbers: CHT Highlights of 2022 

While direct, personal client service is the hallmark of the CHT, it takes a significant behind-the-scenes effort to create financing opportunities, build affordable units and place clients in them. McCulloch recapped multiple projects that have recently been completed as well as three in progress: M and Third Street, the West End (Upchurch) project in Salida, as well as the Railyard in Leadville.

At closings, clients have an average Area Median Income (AMI) of 67 percent (80 percent is the maximum) and an average cost of housing of 27 percent of their monthly gross income (no more than 30 percent of a family’s income devoted to housing costs is considered ideal). These impressive levels are unique in this county.

Ongoing evaluation of inputs, outputs, outcomes and goals to drive continuous improvement

Referencing a formal self-evaluation metric developed for the CHT, Homeownership Program Director Claudia Palzkill cited the latest statistics on client satisfaction for the homebuyer experience as well as for the CHT Homebuyer Readiness Services program. Respondents included 18 of the 23 current/former homeowners and one tenant.

Nearly 88 percent of survey respondents felt that “CHT treats me with dignity and respect”. Acknowledging the challenges of a local shortage of tradespeople and supply chain issues, especially during COVID, homeowners suggested that “CHT project delays and home sustainability should be areas of improvement.”

Other challenges facing homebuyers are the procedural rules imposed by lenders. “We need a way to make it all go faster,” McCulloch added.

Chaffee Housing Trust Homebuyer Readiness Services chart. Image courtesy CHT

Helping potential homebuyers get ready to take that step, the CHT assists with such topics as financial/credit repair. In both Chaffee and Lake counties, over 86 percent of applicants for homebuyer readiness services are females.

To address these topics, the CHT offered 22 community-based educational workshops, in two languages in both counties in 2022. The program is rigorous and applicants require tenacity, time, and effort to move through all the stages, as shown at right.

Making a difference in people’s lives

The families served by the CHT are critical to this county: they include a first-year teacher, police officer, UPS driver, multiple healthcare workers, and a town employee, to name a few.

“This program has changed my life. I was able to leave a situation and start my life new,” said one resident. In the hierarchy of needs, beyond basic shelter and safety, CHT provided “a sense of stability and belonging”, said another.

Asked by AVV about her experience as a new homeowner in River Ridge, Savanna K. said the process was initially frustrating due to delays made worse by COVID but that the CHT staff understands their concerns and helped make it less stressful. Now being a manager in a healthcare role she sees fellow employees struggling with housing as she once did and has given them temporary space to help them out, paying it forward.

Board of Directors Elections and Meeting

After explaining the annual process of electing members to the board of directors, a written vote was taken to confirm directors for the current year.

Returning to serve as officers and remaining in their current roles are:

  • Don Stephens, President
  • Ken Matthews, Vice President
  • Greg Follet. Treasurer
  • Noah Sosin, Secretary.

Alex Restrepo, CHT Homeowner Representative, and Keith Baker, Chaffee County Board of Commissioners were reelected to the board. Cheryl Brown-Kovacic, longtime housing advocate and former Salida City Council member also joined as a director.

Directors are comprised of elected officials, homebuyers/lessees and general CHT members and open nominations are welcomed from the floor. Ken Matthews noted that four men are the current officers. He encouraged others to step up and for members to seek more diversity in governance. Given the challenges faced by full-time, working homeowner-members, no one else stepped up at this time, but clarification of the time needed to serve and distributing board job descriptions may encourage wider future participation.

Looking ahead – 2023 to 2025

According to McCulloch, 35 to 54 potential CHT units are in the pipeline for the next two years . These include more Salida units in Two Rivers, as well as The Crossing, Stackhaus, and Forest Creek Cabins, all in Buena Vista.

Some 46 units a year are needed “just to keep up” (per the Chaffee Housing Needs Assessment), and may or may not be realized this year. All play a role in addressing the Chaffee housing crisis, one family at a time.

Citing a draft annual scorecard, McCulloch noted that the CHT has a strong track record over multiple years, with a balance sheet that shows steady growth in assets while predicting a positive trend continuing in the three years ahead. Backing up the scorecard are linked spreadsheets that project cash flow and help keep the CHT financially nimble. He said this tool and their track record gives them credibility with funders and developer-partners.

Save the dates: CHT Hosts Community Land Trust Conference, April 19 and 20, KHEN Housing Show Returns

Closing out the evening, McCulloch announced that the CHT is proud to have been selected to host the first Colorado Community Land Trust (CLT) Conference since 2006, to be held at the Mt. Princeton Hot Springs in Nathrop, this April. National speakers are scheduled, along with simultaneous translation; further information is available here.

Ken Matthews, CHT Vice Chair also announced that his long-running show on housing will return to KHEN radio, twice a month, starting on March 10.

Earlier this year, the CHT announced it intends to hire a Director of Real Estate to take on the responsibilities of expanding their community land trust (CLT) in this “rural-resort” housing-designated area. For the full 2022 Annual Report, readers may contact the CHT via email.

Featured image: Modular housing unit set on foundation for Chaffee Housing Trust project at M and Third Streets in Salida. Merrell Bergin photo