Sen. John Hickenlooper praises Wapiti Commons during Tuesday visit to Rifle

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper speaks with Habitat Roaring Fork President, Gail Shwartz, and former Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Russell George, in front of the Wapiti Commons project.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

As the housing pinch tightens in Western Colorado, U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper underscored the importance of local housing initiatives during a Tuesday visit to the Wapiti Commons housing project in Rifle.

“I’m impressed with Habitat for Humanity and their work all over Colorado,” he said. “People working throughout this state should be able to rent or buy a home.”

A Dec. 20 announcement added fuel to the housing momentum, with him celebrating the $178.3 million earmarked for Colorado projects in the 2023 federal budget. With his efforts, a solid $129.3 million was secured for 94 projects. 

Wapiti Commons, located in the heart of the housing crunch, is slated to receive $1.2 million. A project costing about $9 million, minus the land, which came as a donation from Basalt-based developers Clay Crossland and Paul Adams, the project will feature 10 townhomes as well as 10 condominiums.

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper looks outside a window of one of the Wapiti Commons townhomes.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Habitat for Humanity’s journey, starting 20 years ago with individual homes, has evolved, now boasting significant projects like the Basalt Vista neighborhood. In the Roaring Fork and Colorado River valleys, Habitat has laid foundations for 60 homes and counting, with a goal in mind to bring affordable housing back to these communities.

“We need stable housing for good business and community,” Habitat Roaring Fork President Gail Shwartz said. “Local people can’t buy homes here. There aren’t enough houses. So, we need to build more.”

Plans are already on the table, with 46 homes projected in Rifle and Glenwood Springs over the next 2-3 years. This pace promises growth, with potential projects in New Castle, Carbondale and Basalt. Other groups have stretched their efforts between Parachute and Gypsum, filling the gaps.

“The quality of life is suffering because of housing costs,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Ingrid Wussow said. “We don’t have enough supply to support the need in these mountain communities.”

U.S. Sen. John Hickenlooper stands in front of the Wapiti Commons project with members of Habitat for Humanity.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Pointing to the flux of people planting themselves in local communities, prompting for less housing stock and higher prices, Wussow said the housing crisis continues to push throughout the valley.

“Homes up in Aspen, Basalt and down the valley have gotten more expensive, which means Glenwood and even New Castle is a destination for second homes; so we have this quandary, and home-ownership is one of those ways to support it — but affordable home-ownership.” she said.

While some of the Wapiti townhomes are set to be ready for move-in come this October, full completion of the project is scheduled for early fall of 2024.

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