AURORA | Much to the chagrin of several local politicos, the Aurora Housing Authority, an arm of the city dedicated to erecting affordable housing projects, won’t be developing a new homeless veterans housing complex in north Aurora in the coming years, Housing Authority officials confirmed this week.
The contract to build a proposed 60-unit development for homeless veterans near the corner of Montview Boulevard and Peoria Street will instead be granted to the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, a Denver-based nonprofit organization.
The local Housing Authority was told this week the state’s Department of Human Services rejected an eleventh-hour appeal the organization had filed to try to win the contract, ostensibly ending the city’s more than decade-long quest to make good on a promise to create a permanent housing option for veterans at the former Fitzsimons Army Medical Center site.
In its appeal, the Housing Authority contended a member of the state committee that evaluated the proposals was cozy with the Colorado Coalition For the Homeless, and therefore biased against the local housing group. The AHA also argued the request for proposal documents in the project application were confusing and led the committee to evaluate the bids “on unpublished factors,” according to the state’s denial letter.
The state rejected both of those claims.
“AHA has not provided any evidence that the composition of the RFP, the transmittal letter requirements, or the evaluation criteria were in anyway arbitrarily or capriciously applied to its proposal,” Jeremy Hill, director of contracts and procurement for the Department of Human Services, wrote in his March 24 letter denying the Housing Authority’s request.
The AHA is now barred from filing additional appeals on the project, according to the letter.
“The first priority was seeing that the commitment that was made to provide housing to homeless veterans was going to be followed through on that site,” said Craig Maraschky, executive director of the Aurora Housing Authority. “So mission accomplished there, but obviously we were disappointed we weren’t selected.”
Efforts to construct a veterans housing complex on a 15-acre parcel of land near the former military hospital were for years met with indifference at the state level until a pair of former state lawmakers helped pass a bill during last year’s legislative session that called for the construction of a housing facility at the north Aurora plot, according to Mayor Steve Hogan.
The Department of Human Services obtained ownership of the contentious land after the military deeded it to the Fitzsimons Redevelopment Authority, which then handed a portion of the land to the state following closure of the Fitzsimons Army Medical Center in the late 1990s.
As part of that closure, the state became required to construct a housing option for displaced veterans under a provision of the McKinney-Vento Act, according to Maraschky.
And while a portion of that provision was fulfilled with the construction of the Colorado State Veterans Home on Quentin Street, the permanent housing development for younger veterans was never brought to fruition, Maraschky said.
That delay, and now the subsequent exclusion of an Aurora developer being involved in the project, has nettled several city officials.
“I’m disappointed the appeal was rejected,” Hogan wrote in an email Wednesday. “The Housing Authority has done so much to make this veteran housing concept a reality.”
He went on to praise the project as a whole as a means of providing accommodations for former servicemen and women experiencing homelessness.
“The good news though, is that there will soon be formerly homeless veterans with real roofs over theirs heads,” Hogan said. “They served us, and this will be our chance to serve them.”
Maraschky said the housing vouchers the Housing Authority had earmarked for the Fitzsimons project will now be dispersed among other development efforts in the city.
“At the end of the day, (the vouchers) will get used throughout the community in Aurora … but we haven’t made any decisions to what would happen next with those,” he said. “But our goal is to use them as quickly as possible.”
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless has tentative plans to construct 60 units of affordable housing for homeless veterans at the 15-acre Ftizsimons plot, according to Cathy Alderman, a spokeswoman for the organization. She said the pace of development is dependent upon how many low-income housing tax credits the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is able to secure from the state.
The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless currently maintains about 1,900 housing units in facilities across the state, the majority of which are located in the seven-county metro area, Alderman said.