DENVER— They were promised affordable housing, but just a year into living at Viña Apartments, residents say rent is rising more than 12% and putting them at risk of losing their homes.
A year ago, Melissa Diaz was escaping homelessness when she moved into Viña Apartments in Denver's Elyria-Swansea neighborhood, an affordable housing development that was part of a Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program.
"I've been here since the beginning, and I feel very passionate about it," said Diaz, who faces chronic health conditions that have left her disabled. "I love this apartment. I love my neighbors. I don't want to move."
But a year later, though, she and other residents tell Contact Denver7 that affordable housing is now not as affordable.
"It makes me feel like I was lied to," said Jessica Neckien, a resident who received the notification Vina first sent in January of 5% rent increases. Then, records show a new notification in February saying there had been a mistake, and her rent increase was more than 12%. "I think it's wrong since we signed our papers and turned them in, that should be the agreed amount."
Diaz said her rent is going up 12.5%.
"I don't think that it's really fair. You get these large corporations and they say, 'Oh, well, we're going to do affordable housing.' And then they raise the rent [so much] that it's pushing people out."
In an email to Contact Denver7, Diana Stoian with Columbia Ventures stated that rents at Viña are being raised in accordance with allowable levels as announced by HUD and CHFA.
"Given the inflationary economic environment over the last few years, these increases are indeed higher than they've typically been in the past. This is the case not just for Viña or Denver, but for other markets as well," Stoian wrote.
Denver's Department of Housing Stability helped to finance the construction of Viña with a $3.75 million cash flow loan and is monitoring the rent increases, which are limited based on the Area Median Income (AMI).
"We have seen increases in that area median income for the Denver area, which in turn trickles down," said Gallegos, who said an initial assessment indicated that Vina's increased rent fall within HUD and CHFA limits.
In a statement to Contact Denver7, CHFA stated that "On average, HUD rent limits typically increase an average of 5% annually; 2022 was an unusual year with HUD increasing maximum rent limits by 11%-12%. When new rents are published, property owners have the discretion to increase rents as long as they are below HUD’s maximum limits."
For Diaz, the rent increases may lead to a choice between paying rent or buying food, and her neighbors said they face the same tough choice.
"I did not get a 12.5% increase in my income," said Diaz. "I really feel betrayed, like I was misled whenever I first came here. But I can't afford anyplace else. I'm forced to swallow that rent increase and have to just do without."
For tenants seeking additional options, CHFA provided a list of organizations that provide rental assistance may be found at www.211colorado.org [211colorado.org]
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