Housing a big present for residents moving into Arbor Vista

A home for the holidays

Mariah Sorensen, 3, plays with her doll Friday at the dedication of Arbor Vista, a Grand Junction Housing Authority housing complex. Sorensen and her family were in the process of moving into their apartment before Christmas.

Living with her two young children in an 825-square-foot duplex with only one bathroom and no dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer, Rhonda Sorensen was anxious to find another place to call home.

It took her last dollar — literally — to move into the Grand Junction Housing Authority’s new Arbor Vista subsidized-housing complex.

Dependent on food stamps and the Temporary Aid for Needy Families federal-assistance program, Sorensen spent all of her money on the $722 deposit. Her grandparents loaned her the $25 needed for the Housing Authority to conduct a background check on her.

The single mother now has no money to buy Christmas presents for her 3-year-old daughter, Mariah, and 23-month-old son, Tyler May, instead relying on a ticket to pick up toys from The Salvation Army’s Toys for Tots program. But she figures the secure feeling provided by her new home overshadows the temporary disappointment.

“I feel bad not being able to buy them anything, but I got them a better place to live,” said Sorensen, who graduated from IntelliTec College last month and is now looking for clerical or administrative work.

Several others with their own barely-getting-by stories got a boost this week when they moved into the first two apartment buildings at Arbor Vista.

About 40 people gathered Friday to celebrate the placement of families in homes right before the holidays, while also cautioning that the demand for affordable housing is as high as ever.

“In the season of celebration and the season of lights, there are going to be lights on this Christmas in these units,” Housing Authority Executive Director Jody Kole said.

Lori Rosendahl, vouching program supervisor for the Housing Authority, said Arbor Vista’s tenants include store clerks, painters, call center employees and medical office
employees. She said 15 of the units are reserved for homeless families, some of whom
were in danger of losing their kids to foster homes.

The 72-unit project sits on 5.3 acres off Elm Avenue east of 28 Road and features a 20,000-square-foot recreational area. Two of the nine buildings opened this week, another three will be ready by Dec. 15, and the final four will be occupied in February, Kole said.

A variety of public and private entities funded the project, including the city of Grand Junction, the Colorado Division of Housing and the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority. A $1 million grant from the Division of Housing represents the largest per-unit subsidy the state has ever awarded, officials said.

Housing Authority Development Director Don Hartman said the demand for affordable housing in the valley is “inexhaustible,” noting the agency has received 331 applications since it began leasing the 72 units.

“We have our work cut out for us, but we are up to the challenge,” he said.


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