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Housing crisis forces senior out of Denver, onto the streets

Posted at 3:17 PM, Mar 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-30 17:17:11-04

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DENVER -- John Cray never thought he would be packing up to move at 77 years old.

"I've gotten rid of the organs, got rid of the cars I collected, boxed up as much as I can to get out of here," Cray said. "We got an absolute, 'You're going to have to move.’”

Cray is one of many seniors living in subsidized housing who are being pushed out as a direct result of Denver's building boom.

"It's putting people in danger of losing their homes. I was settled in and a lot of other people were too," Cray said. 

He planned to spend the rest of his life at Sakura Square, off 19th between Lawrence and Larimer in Denver's LoDo neighborhood.

The building underwent what it describes on its website as a "conversion from subsidized housing to market rate workforce housing."

Cornerstone Apartment Services is now renting studio apartments that seniors could afford with help from subsidies for three times as much -- $1,100 or more a month. 

"We get calls every day from people looking for housing. Either their rent is going up or they're being displaced," said Senior Housing Options Executive Director James Goddard.

Goddard said many of the properties for seniors that received housing assistance are not renewing those agreements.

"I get calls from developers once a week who are interested in purchasing that property," Goddard said of one of the residences his nonprofit runs.

Senior Housing Options owns both the Barth and the Olan Hotels, prime real estate near Union Station and the state Capitol.

They are not selling, but know their service cannot possibly help every senior in need. 

"Some of them or going to have to leave Denver, leave Colorado," Goddard said, hinting that there was a crisis in the city. "Absolutely," he said.  

Senior Housing Options said it is running a 12 to 18 month waiting list, with 300 seniors on the list for their Olan location alone.

Seventy percent of their residents fall below 300 percent of the federal poverty level, with an average income of $11,600 a year.

"At this age, I'm thinking why should I go and find any place else to live?" said Cray.

Cray said the management company at Sakura Square helped him find a new place outside the metro, near the airport.

"It's part of gentrification. We're not responsible for getting old, we just are. Some people look at us as not contributing to the community at large anymore, so get rid of ‘em, move ‘em out of here," Cray said. 

Goddard said before many seniors make it off their waiting list they have spent time homeless.

He hopes there will be more incentive for developers to include a portion of subsidized housing for seniors in their projects and Denver manages growth going forward.