Amid a growing housing crisis in Jefferson County and Arvada’s contentious relationship toward homelessness, a new affordable housing apartment complex, AVi at Olde Town, opened its doors to residents in February.
The complex — the result of a collaboration between Foothills Regional Housing and CASA of Jefferson and Gilpin — features 100 one and two-bedroom apartment units; 30 for youth emancipating from foster care, 10 for unhoused veterans in Jeffco and the remaining 60 for people making between 30% to 70% of the area median income — or under $65,660 a year for a two-person household.
AVi at Olde Town replaces the Allison Village, an existing Foothills Regional Housing-owned property that had 37 units. Construction began on Aug. 21, 2022 and wrapped in December following major delays caused by issues with an Excel natural gas line.
The completed complex features outdoor areas, patios, a playground, a dog and bike wash station, free covered parking and common spaces CASA says it will use to provide support and self-sufficiency resources to the youth residents of AVi.
Lori Rosendahl, the chief operating officer at Foothills Regional Housing, said her team completed a pilot program over the last few years that included 22 youths exiting the foster program. Their team found that more than just needing a place to stay, youth need direction and support in order to become self-sufficient.
“It was hard to provide any real group support and wrap around,” Rosendahl said of the pilot program. “We’re trying to develop this program; at the same time, we’re trying to house these 22 youth all over the place. We learned a lot in two years that we might not have had the opportunity to learn until much later."
Rosendahl added that the focus is housing, but also the need to cater to the individual or family's needs to help them be stably and successfully housed by offering resources outside of just a home.
"Our ‘Aha moment’ with the pilot program was, ‘We're going to really change our intentionality to person-based, family-based, instead of the square box of ‘Here’s a place you can live in,'" she said.
To that end, common spaces and kitchens in AVi at Olde Town will feature classes on managing finances, cooking and job coaching. Youth residents — the development aims to serve people between the ages of 18 and 24; that is not a steadfast requirement, though — will each have a service plan and a coach they’ll work on the plan with to set goals in key areas and complete the program, which aims to result in self-sufficiency.
“Serving older youth who are in child welfare or are exiting child welfare has always been what we at CASA Gilpin have had as part of our permanent programming,” Kristen Gines, Foothills Regional Housing’s chief people officer said. “This collaboration and moving into the area of trying to get youth into stable housing so they can start attending to those other things they need to do to be self-sufficient adults, through our pilot program we found out that it’s really a process."
The project was funded through a number of sources, including state tax credits, private activity bonds from Jefferson County, funding from the cities of Golden, Arvada and Wheat Ridge; Division of Housing grants, HUD funds and some of FRH’s own capital and a loan from First Bank.
Gines said her team conducted community outreach and found an overwhelmingly positive response from people who live in the surrounding communities.
“(The feedback) was very positive,” Gines said. “I think the population and generation that’s coming in that resides in Olde Town Arvada understands the need for affordable housing.
“They’re seeing it themselves; knowing that we’re serving potentially their brother, their sister, their aunt, them, even, with an affordable place to live which they can put their feet on the ground, be stable and focus on other things besides paying rent, maybe their food,” Rosendahl continued. “It was well embraced by the community members.”
Rosendahl said AVi at Olde Town will be a great asset to the surrounding community.
“It is proven that healthy communities are those that people can live and work in,” Gines said. “We also know that many young adults who have transitioned out of foster care lack the safety net of parents to fall back on if they are unable to make it on their own, we are happy to be their safety net by providing housing with robust services on site.
“Our Veterans deserve the best housing options and we know providing housing with services gives them a greater chance at successfully staying housed,” Gines continued.
Youth and veteran units are available by referral from CASA or the VA only, according to FRH’s Grants and Communications Director Ashley Noel. People who are eligible to apply for the other 60 units can do so at the complex’s website.