There are 172 new rental units downvalley, but COVID-19 has affected how quickly they move |

There are 172 new rental units downvalley, but COVID-19 has affected how quickly they move

A 1,230-unit shortage was predicted for 2020, but new units haven't been snatched up as soon as they hit the market

The newly completed Two10@Castle Peak project in Eagle Ranch brings 22 new workforce rental units to the county's inventory.
Special to the Daily

Global pandemic and 2020 living challenges aside, there’s still a housing shortage in Eagle County.

Eagle County’s comprehensive look at housing issues in the area — the 2018 Eagle River Valley study — concluded that there would be a need for 1,230 additional rental units by 2020. Of course, the study did not anticipate the housing impacts of COVID-19 and the rampant unemployment and general uncertainties that followed.

Today, there are 172 new downvalley rental units on the market — completed and move-in ready. Two10@Castle Peak and the first phase of Spring Creek Village have come online since August and leasing is now underway at both projects.

The new units represent only approximately 14% of the total projected shortfall but the apartments weren’t snatched up the second they hit the market. That’s partly attributable to income requirements and leasing guidelines. But managers at both properties also cite COVID-19 as a contributing factor.

However, officials at both projects don’t expect their currently empty units to remain empty for long.

Two10@Castle Peak

The new workforce housing project in Eagle won’t remain workforce housing forever. At some point in the future, it will transition into an independent senior living complex, a natural extension of the Castle Peak Senior Life operation located next door.

But for now, Two10@Castle Peak offers one-, one-plus, and two-bedroom apartments in the 22-unit Eagle Ranch complex.

The project is a partnership between Eagle County and Cassia, the Minnesota-based company that owns and operates Castle Peak Senior Life. When the use converts to senior independent living, Cassia will take over the complex.

For now, however, 12 of the 22 brand-new apartments are available. On the ground floor, most of the units feature porch areas that directly access Sylvan Lake Road or the complex parking lot. The second floor features balcony decks. The building’s basement has storage lockers available and the building’s initial residents have already piled sports equipment and other belongings in several of the lockers.

Kim Bell Williams, housing director for Eagle County, noted the property’s eventual use as senior housing drove several of its design elements. “We have an elevator for a two-story building, for example,” she said. “It was just easier to put that elevator in now.”

The one-plus unit design is another example of senior-friendly design, Williams continued. Seniors surveyed about the complex design voiced their desire for an extra room that could be used for hobbies, storage or guests. That’s how current residents are also envisioning the space, Williams said.

On the subject of design, Williams pointed to the exterior of the building. The eastern side is has a more residential look to blend with the Village Homes neighborhood. The western side features the predominant elements of the Eagle Ranch Village area.

“We are so proud of this building. It is beautiful inside and out,” Williams said. “The vision here is for the eventual senior residents, but we are so happy to have 22 additional workforce units available now.”

Matt Andrews, property manager for Two10@Castle Peak, said new residents began moving into the apartments on Aug. 1. He added that there has been a positive response to the complex design and amenities, particularly the walkout patio spaces and the second story deck areas. But he believes that COVID-19 uncertainty is playing a big role in people’s housing decisions.

“What we are seeing is people are a bit timid to get out of their current living situation right now,” Andrews said. “People have become more cautious, and rightfully so.  Planning your next move or choosing the right roommate is more complicated today than this time last year.”

Andrews expects as uncertainties regarding the national, state and local COVID-19 scenarios normalize, there will be strong demand for the units.

Qualifications for residency at Two10@ Castle Peak include year-round Eagle County employment, verifiable rental history and criminal and financial background screening. Rental rates are:

  • One bedroom/one bathroom (600 square feet) — $1,500
  • One bedroom plus/one bathroom (700 square feet) — $1,600
  • Two bedroom/two bathroom (1,000 square feet) — $1,800

Spring Creek Village

At this time one year ago, the Spring Creek Village site in Gypsum was an open field where contractors were laying below ground infrastructure. Today, there are 150 new income-restricted apartment units housed in five buildings available there.

According to Gerry Flynn of Polar Star Properties, the developer of the complex, two months after launching leasing, 70% of the phase 1 Spring Creek units are rented.

“Overall, it has gone well,” Flynn said. “ We now have 108 of the 150 available units spoken for.”

Phase 1 of Spring Creek Village is a low-income housing project with defined income rules. That means some people who have applied for apartments don’t meet the guidelines.

“We have probably seen 300 applications to get to the 108 qualified residents,” Flynn said.

Residents of phase 1 of Spring Creek Village cannot earn more than 60% of the average median income. For a one-person household, the maximum annual salary would be up to $42,000. For a six-person household, the limit is $69,500.

Rent prices at Spring Creek Village Phase I are:

  • One-bedroom — $1,057
  • Two-bedroom — $1,261
  • Three-bedroom — $1,448

Those prices include water, sewer and trash service. Flynn said garage and storage units are be available on-site for an additional fee.

According to Flynn, all of the three-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments in phase 1 are now leased. Some standard one-bedroom and smaller one-bedroom units remain. “There is some resistance to the smaller one-bedroom units, but is it our feeling that once the standard one-bedroom units are gone, those will go too,” Flynn said. “Those units are pretty much single occupant units.”

In addition to the 150 units now available, the Spring Creek Village site includes a completed clubhouse that has a community room, package delivery lockers and laundry facilities.

“Landscaping is going in and it is the last thing that will be finished,” Flynn said. “We are hoping to get all the sod and plantings in this fall along with the irrigation. The volleyball courts and tot lot will be installed in the next six weeks.”

Flynn acknowledged that COVID-19 affected both construction and leasing for Spring Creek Village. “But I believe, long term, without the disruption of COVID, there is still a housing shortage in Eagle County.”

“These units will be absorbed,” Flynn said. “What is difficult right now is a lot of people haven’t gotten their jobs back and people can’t move because they have no income. That will all, we hope, straighten itself out eventually.”

Polar Star’s confidence in that reasoning, as well as its belief the county’s housing shortage if far from solved, will spur more development at Spring Creek Village in 2021. The company plans to launch construction on phase 2, which features 132 free-market priced units, this winter.

“We have proven that we can start foundations in March and have finished units by August,” Flynn said. “Hopefully by the time phase 2 comes on along, the world looks a little different.”

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