Life after Terry Ragan: Gentrification adds to Colorado Springs’ affordable housing shortage

It’s more than a name change. The new owners of the north Colorado Springs apartment complex, Denver-based Slipstream Properties, are looking for a complete break with the past. Slipstream bought the property and six other complexes in southeast Colorado Springs from Terry Ragan in May for $102 million.

Under Ragan’s ownership, New Horizons and his six apartment complexes in southeast Colorado Springs — South Pointe Apartments, Pine Creek Village, Cedar Creek Club, El Vecino, Shannon Glen and Timbers Apartments — were notorious slums. Crime and code violations were rampant. Apartments were often uninhabitable due to mold, cockroaches, leaks and broken furnaces, windows, kitchen appliances and locks.

In the seven months since Slipstream took over, that’s been slowly changing. Building by building, the company plans to replace nearly everything.

“It’s a big ship to turn 180 degrees in the other direction,” said Anthony Loeffler, a partner in Slipstream.

For anyone familiar with gentrification in other cities, improvements come with a predictable trade-off.

Nicer apartments will attract tenants able to afford higher rents, enabling Slipstream to recoup not only the purchase price, but also the millions it is investing in renovations.

But Colorado Springs, which already has a huge deficit in affordable housing units that advocates say contributes to homelessness, will lose what city officials have admitted were among the few apartments the working poor, single parents and the disabled could afford.

Resident’s vehicles are parked outside of the Shannon Glen apartments in Colorado Springs on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Slipstream Properties purchased a set of 7 apartment complexes in May from Terry Ragan. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)

Mayor John Suthers has rejected any suggestion that the city should mandate that a portion of new developments be set aside for lower-income tenants. Instead, he advocates increased competition to push out unsavory landlords, such as Ragan, or force them to improve their properties to remain competitive.

Complaints down dramatically

Earlier this year, 3 percent of rental property owners in the city accounted for 50 percent of code enforcement’s cases and follow-up inspections, said Code Enforcement Manager Mitch Hammes.

In September 2017, when Ragan was still the landlord, his seven complexes were responsible for 26 housing cases, Hammes said. This September, there were seven.

The most tangible change is that complaints about crime or requests for repairs aren’t simply ignored.

Broken windows

Already, city officials anticipate a deficit of 26,000 affordable housing units this year, and rent increases at Slipstream’s nearly 1,200 units could further diminish the supply.

Even if that goal is met, Suthers conceded, it’s unclear whether that progress can outpace the city’s exploding population and need for affordable housing.

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