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Another Colorado Springs senior apartment complex sold, rents raised

Published: Sep. 24, 2021 at 10:20 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - It’s a reoccurring nightmare for Calvin Newton.

He had lived at Taylor Apartments near Fillmore and Nevada for more than a decade. The complex had been exclusively for seniors 55+ until it was sold in 2020. The new owners opened the complex up to renters of all ages and also raised the rent, which Newton could no longer afford to pay. In February 2021, he moved into Arcadia Plaza Apartments, just a few blocks away from Taylor.

“It’s the last place I had to go,” Newton said. “I thought, ‘I’d be here for life.’”

But that dream changed abruptly at the end of July. According to a letter Newton shared with 11 News, the owner had sold the complex. Just a week after receiving that notice, the new property management company, Atlas Real Estate Group, sent out letters stating the new rent.

“I was paying $785, and they jumped it up almost to $1,500 a month,” Newton said.

He shared his lease with 11 News, which showed he’d been paying $785 for a month-to-month agreement. According to the lease, that price included “heating, water, sewage, trash service, high-speed internet, and limited satellite TV service.”

The lease renewal notice Newton got from Atlas stated his rent would cost $975 a month, plus $125 for ratio utility billing system, for a 12-month lease. If he wanted to go month-to-month like his previous lease, it would cost him $1,170 a month plus $125 RUBS. The new rents were effective as of Sept. 1.

“I don’t know how I’m gonna afford it because I only get $1,251 a month in Social Security,” Newton said.

11 News reached out to Atlas Real Estate Group. A property manager confirmed the complex will open to renters of all ages and become pet friendly. Previously, no pets were allowed. The company declined an on-camera interview but supplied 11 News with this statement:

“As the property management team for the new owner of Arcadia Plaza apartments, we are vigilant about abiding by all Colorado Fair Housing laws. We’re committed to working with the residents here to support them in the transition to new ownership. We are also working with local senior service organizations to make supportive resources available to residents as needed. Additionally, this property has moved into compliance as an all-ages community and will be pet-friendly moving forward.”

Newton said he’s exasperated with the changes at Arcadia and Taylor.

“What do we do in this country to keep that sign that says 55+? How can all these people around us adhere to that, and these people come in and just toss it away like it means nothing? To the old people, it means a lot,” Newton said.

The '55+' sign still hung outside Arcadia Plaza Apartments, even after the new property...
The '55+' sign still hung outside Arcadia Plaza Apartments, even after the new property management team announced the complex would open to renters of all ages.(KKTV)

Another man who lives at Arcadia also shared his frustrations with 11 News.

Philip Selva is 79 years old. He told 11 News he lived at Arcadia for about three years.

“The raise in the rent. It’s, I felt like, just a little bit more than I was comfortable with,” he said.

Selva said he could “squeak by” paying the higher rent but decided to try to find a cheaper place to live.

“At this point, I don’t have a lot of options,” he said.

That’s one of the main problems Colorado Springs is facing: a lack of affordable housing.

“For older adults to pack up and move again within less than a year, that costs money. It’s hard on the body, and if you don’t have money to pay people to pack up your stuff and move it, it’s really hard for them to do it themselves,” said Melissa Marts. She works as a program development administrator for the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging.

“I am kind of tasked with looking at gaps in services for older adults and trying to figure out ways to meet some of those needs, and housing continues to be one of the biggest needs,” Marts said.

She said it’s almost impossible to find senior housing on short notice.

“Every one of those low-income or senior apartment complexes keeps a wait list. They estimate their wait lists to be between three and five years,” Marts said.

After the Taylor Apartments situation, Marts said the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging funded two housing coordinator positions to help seniors with housing problems. One position was hired through Colorado Legal Services; the other through Silver Key Senior Services.

“I’m glad they’re there, but they’re not enough,” Marts said.

When thinking about solutions to the affordable housing crisis, Marts said she’d like to see the city require a certain percentage of housing be affordable.

“That’s been something that’s not been, you know, really appealing in the past, but it’s something that might continue to find some traction and eventually happen. That would be great,” she said. “We just need to have more of those options out there.”

She said she’d also like to see a coordinated effort to streamline wait lists for senior housing complexes.

“It’s just really frustrating, and you’re calling 20+ places, and it’s just a waste of everyone’s time, including the staff on the other end who are answering the calls, saying, ‘Oh, sorry, no. We don’t have anything,’” Marts said. “Whereas if there was one, kind of, coordinated spot where people could, kind of, check in and all of those senior complexes could have that system managed by one entity, maybe there’s a possibility there.”

She said another option to consider is Sunshine Home Share. It’s a program that pairs up older adults so they can split the cost of rent.

“For people, older adults, who would love to get a little extra income by renting out a portion of their house to another older adult, we need more of those conversations,” Marts said.

11 News also spoke with Colorado Springs Councilwoman Nancy Henjum about what the city can do to protect senior housing.

“It’s painful, right?” she said. “It’s really hard to see seniors on a fixed income who don’t have a place to be now.”

Henjum said there’s not much the city council can do in terms of keeping apartment complexes dedicated to seniors after they’ve been bought by new owners.

“The market is driving this, and so it’s unfortunate that in a free market society this is kind of what’s going to happen,” she said.

One thing Henjum said she’d like to see more of is property owners invested in the community -- not just from a financial perspective.

“Owning property is also about being part of a community, and a community that’s healthy and thriving, and that really takes into account the health of all of its citizens,” she said.

Henjum also agreed with Marts and said it would be great if apartment owners could set aside some of their units to be rented out at a lower rate.

“I think we start with incentives. I think we look at what are the incentives to making that possible,” she said. “I think we can and should be looking at what are the incentives we can do to help all builders, all developers, whether it’s new building or existing building.”

Henjum said she’s working with a group called the Affordable Housing Collaborative to find solutions for the affordable housing crisis that would benefit people of all ages.

“So what are some actual proposals for real dollars that might be available through community development, through some of the federal dollars that we have that come down, maybe some money that comes through the county that we can actually start implementing to start, to continue to address this housing crisis?” Henjum said.

The group has a meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 29.

“I think every human being deserves to have a place to put their head at night and to feel like they’ve got a place to be, and that serves a healthy community, a thriving community,” Henjum said.

Until some concrete changes are made, Newton is left looking for a cheaper place to move into. He said Silver Key is helping him pay part of the higher rent at Arcadia until he finds a new home.

“It’s just so unfair. It may be legal, but it’s just wrong,” Newton said. “And like we said, if we do it here, what’s going to stop them from going every place else? They can buy everything in Colorado Springs.”

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