Littleton City Council moving toward Geneva Village decision
A plan appears to be taking shape for the low-income Geneva Village housing complex that currently houses 12 residents who have not seen a rent increase in four decades.
During a work session on Aug. 22, where no official action was taken, the city council was updated by city staff and others who have been working with Geneva Village residents.
Last year, the city started talking about the aging city-owned complex that officials say is in dire need of renovation. This has led to the city asking whether to sell the property, renovate it, or find other options.
The city has owned the 20-apartment complex since 1975.
No matter what option is chosen, the biggest obstacle has been the 12 residents residing in the apartments and where they would go. In 2022, the city posted notices at Geneva Village that the city would no longer fill vacancies at the complex.
During the Aug. 22 presentation, led by Brittany Katalenas, a social worker with B-Konnected, council members were educated on the demographics and abilities of the residents remaining at Geneva Village.
The residents were surveyed with two questionnaires, with the intent of surveys and interviews to increase citizen engagement.
The goal is to provide council members with a clear picture of livelihood, social and emotional state, and well-being and take a point-in-time measurement that could help the council in the decision-making process as it moves forward.
The council is expected to possibly act on the issue on Sept. 19.
Based on a snapshot of the information gathered, the 12 Geneva Village residents range in age between 64 and 91, with an average annual income of $18,000. All the current residents are women.
Survey results showed the primary source of income for most residents is Social Security with an average monthly income of $1,528 and about $5,000 in total assets. Katalenas said vehicles are the main asset, noting that only half the residents own a car.
The average monthly rent for the residents is $368, which has been the price in place for 40 years.
“Geneva Village residents maintain financial stability mainly because their rents are low,” Katalenas said. “However, more affordable housing options are needed as demonstrated with the high extent of the growing Section 8 demand. The community lacks true financial independence. They rely on subsidies in the community in order to maintain their living.”
The majority of resident income goes toward food, medical expenses, and personal hygiene products, leaving them with little to no extra money for savings, Katalenas said.
Katalenas said that given the rent rates being unchanged for decades, there are no housing options in the current market of the Denver metro area that are even comparable. In 2023, the fair market rent set by Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, is $1,538.
Mayor Pro Tem Gretchen Rydin said she appreciates the report, giving the council a bigger picture of what is happening with residents.
Katalenas said the entire process was intimidating for residents, noting that they were “troupers” through the entire process.
Mayor Kyle Schlachter said the process has taken a long time because any decision does impact actual people, making it important to truly understand the entire picture.
As part of the process, city officials also talked to the city’s Historic Preservation Board regarding the property’s history in Littleton. The board mainly provided a list of characteristics and details about the property, but no recommendations or opinions were provided.
Community Development Director Jennifer Henninger said city staff held a work session with the Historical Preservation Board about the historical value and architectural value of Geneva Village, a nearly three-acre property.
Councilmember Patrick Driscoll said, “I read that letter and it did not come off as anything great. Doesn’t seem like they make a recommendation to keep it or lose it.”
City Manager Jim Becklenberg said the work session with the historical board was to weigh in on the historic character and not actually make a recommendation because it would require more information and context.
“We did restrict the scope of the conversation,” he said.
Looking at options moving forward, Assistant City Manager Kathleen Osher said selling the property presents its own challenges, especially given the number of renovations that would be needed. In talking to programs such as Habitat for Humanity, they do not usually want to take on a property unless no major improvements and construction would be needed for up to 10 years, she said.
If the council opts for renovations, which would require the current residents to move temporarily, the council and staff talked about how the state’s housing voucher system could work.
“With a Section 8 voucher the tenants could find suitable rentals in Littleton,” Katalenas said. “But they would have to have that voucher. But it would be hard.”
Schlachter questioned how hard it could be for the female residents to find and afford housing.
“How does one find housing? At issue is that rent has not increased for 40 years and it is out of whack with the reality of how that works. If you’re used to paying that, it goes up, that is a shock. So, there are opportunities to find housing to bridge that gap. But it’s not easy.”
Katalenas said her team has worked to continue helping the current Geneva Village residents, noting that when the voucher waitlist opened her team helped eight of the 12 women apply. As of now, she said five of the women were already approved for the program.
Moving forward, the decision will be left to the council on whether to renovate, which poses cost challenges, or possibly sell the property. The city could also negotiate with an organization such as South Metro Housing Options, which would be subject to affordable housing practices.
To rehabilitate the property, Osher said the city would have to work with residents to relocate during construction, which could start in 2024-2025.
To conclude the nearly hour-long discussion, Becklenberg said the staff is recommending redevelopment of the property to meet goals for more housing and integration with Project Downtown.
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