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Bluff Lake Apartments dedication: Michael Hancock hails affordable housing project

In April, the Colorado Division of Housing reported the state features twice as many low-income families as there is affordable rental housing for those families. This morning, at the dedication ceremony for Bluff Lake Apartments, the area's newest affordable housing community, Mayor Michael Hancock confirmed plans to change that: "My administration is more committed than ever to the expansion of affordable transitional housing," he told a crowd.

The newly dedicated Bluff Lake Apartments feature 92 units, half of which will be dedicated specifically to families transitioning out of homelessness with the help of Denver's Road Home. The remainder of the eco-savvy property will be opened to area veterans and low-income families, and all of the forthcoming residents earn an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the median income of area residents. After years of work from partners including Denver's Road Home, Mercy Housing and US Bank, the project comes with a price tag of $16.1 million.

"Our work has never been more important than it is now," said Mercy Housing Colorado President Jennifer Erixon. "At Mercy House, we know from experience that people who are given a space home and feel connected to their community, they begin to feel hopeful."

Forest City donated the land to Mercy Housing for the project, and the space is part of what was formerly the Stapleton International Airport, a fact that compelled many in attendance to revisit childhood memories spent watching planes take off and land in the same area: "It was a place where dreams came to be born and dreams came to be realized," Hancock recalled.

But "transforming an airport into one of the largest developmental communities in the nation has its challenges," joked Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon, a Stapleton resident. Herndon pointed to Denver's recent implementation of the urban camping ban, which generated heated debate over the city's lack of shelter in which to place homeless individuals. Herndon stressed Bluff Lake as an example of the city's continued work on that issue, while Denver's Road Home executive director Bennie Milliner called the new development a sign of the group's "housing first" model of community development.

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"I'm sure a few of you might have heard about the spirited debate we had in regards to services for the homeless," Herndon told the audience. "One of the challenges that the opponents of the measure felt (was that) there's not enough housing, and this is just a key piece in that step to ensure that we have housing and services for our most vulnerable."

Depending on its occupants' income level, the rent at Bluff Lake's one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments will range from $212 to $1,268 per month. Each spot in the facility also offers after-school educational programming, a computer room, a courtyard and a 3,000-foot playground in addition to the opportunity to partner with financial and career training services.

"But that's not the end of the story," Milliner said. "They will need continuing partnerships to support their efforts. We need more facilities such as this," he looked toward Hancock. "Mayor, I figure ten, fifteen -- something like that. We look forward to more of these."

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