housing

The Housing Lottery: Part 2

By Julia Caulfield

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It’s lottery day for the Longwill 16 and Silver Jack housing developments, and Rebekah Hall is buzzing. At the front of the room is a large golden, metal tumbler, like you’d see for Bingo. Beside it on the table are small red balls, each with a number on it. There are 93 households in the lottery – each with between one and three numbers. That means 193 balls, for 24 units available.

The Hall is packed, and beneath the nervous chatter you can hear as each ball is dropped into the tumbler.

Dennis Andrejko sits in the second row of seats. He and his partner, Shawnna Rice, are hoping to get a unit through the lottery so they can move in together. Rice is at work, but Andrejko took the day off so he could be here.

Just after 12 p.m., Town Council member DeLanie Young calls the meeting to order.

“At 12:02 p.m. I am calling to order the special meeting of the Telluride Housing Authority Subcommittee on September 12th, 2019…” says Young.

Council member Young notes that even if a number isn’t one of the first 24 drawn, that doesn’t mean a household is out of the running. Some lottery winners will decide against a unit, or the finances won’t come through. Young says anyone drawn in the top 30 have a good chance to get a unit.

Several more people provide remarks, and the lottery begins. County Commissioner Hilary Cooper reads out the numbers.

The energy is high. Even for those not in the drawing, you have to remind yourself to breathe.

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Cheers erupt as the first numbers a drawn. But as the numbers inch closer to 20, 24, 30, the mood begins to drop.

Somewhere around the 50th ball being called, Andrejko decides to leave. Just as he steps outside, his number is called for the first time.

“Okay, cool. I guess I just called in the 55th or something…” says Andrejko.

His number was actually the 57th called.

Andrejko adds “I feel like a lot of people were kind of going for the same units. So, I don’t know, 50th, 55th, somewhere in there, it’s a little disheartening, but that’s how it is, I guess. Literal luck of the draw.”

Andrejko says the lottery doesn’t just indicate a need for more housing in the area. He says there needs more housing to buy, not just rent.

“People don’t want to rent. I mean obviously, the crowd in there and the number of people that signed up, people want to live here and own here, and be in this community and be a part of it, for as long as they can.”

At the end of it all, Andrejko’s feelings are still mixed about the whole thing.

“I looked around the room, seeing people cheering in the first handful of ones called. So I’m happy for those people. I’m jealous a little bit too. I’ll be honest. But I’m glad. It’s new families, it’s people that I know have lived here, that are living here,” He says.

Back in the Hall, numbers are still being drawn. But the crowed has thinned. As the final numbers are called, there are only a dozen or so people in the audience. No one is cheering.

And in what seems like a cruel twist, the final number called…is Andrejko and Rice’s.

The full results of the housing lottery will be available on the San Miguel Regional Housing Authority’s website on Friday. Winners of the lottery can expect to begin signing contracts next week.

The Housing Lottery: Part 1

By Julia Caulfield

Dennis Andrejko and Shawnna Rice

Dennis Andrejko and Shawnna Rice

Dennis Andrejko and Shawnna Rice recognize they don’t have the typical housing story in Telluride. Andrejko works at the library, and has lived in town for about 12 years.

Andrejko says,“I am really fortunate in that the first couple years I was living here was only winter. So for four winters I lived in a different place. After that, I currently live in deed restricted housing, and I’m super fortunate that I’ve been able to do that.”

Rice moved to Telluride two years ago and works as the school district psychologist. She’s been in the same house since she got to town.

But now, Rice is losing her housing at the end of November. Plus, she and Andrejko want to move in together. Which leads them to be one of the 93 applicants participating in this year’s housing lottery – 99 applied, but 6 applications were deemed unqualified.

“It’s just stressful because there aren’t really any other options. We don’t really have a backup plan. I have to move out of my place on November 30th. So it’s like, ok, if this doesn’t happen…where am I going to go?” says Rice.

It’s mid-August, and Andrejko and Rice are taking a sight walk of the Longwill 16 project on the west end of Telluride.

The Longwill 16 is one of two new affordable housing projects in Telluride. The other project, call the Silver Jack, is on the upper floors of the SMPA lot, across from the library. In total there are 26 units, although two have been reserved for town employees, which leaves 24 units up for grabs. The units range from single bedrooms, all the way up to four.

To be entered in the lottery, households go through an extensive application process, and provide all kinds of documentation including “past tax returns, or W-2s, or in some instances, people showing that they graduated from Telluride High School.”

Melanie Wasserman, is the Interim Executive Director for the San Miguel Regional Housing Authority, the organization managing the lottery. To be part of the lottery, applicants needed to complete all the paperwork, and submit it during an appointment with the SMRHA. Wasserman says her role at the SMRHA can be difficult. The SMRHA isn’t in charge of deciding the qualifications, they administer the rules decided by the Town.

“On one hand it’s very black and white, and then on another hand, you come across these people, individuals, couples, families, who are just so wonderful and you really want them to end up in housing,” says Wasserman.

After getting all the application paperwork in, it’s mostly just a waiting game.

Rice says, “getting all the application materials was super stressful. Once we were done with our application, then I’ll just be like, ‘ah, okay, we’re done.’ And then we just wait to see if we’re lucky, or not.”

“Then it’s just literally luck of the draw,” adds Andrejko.

For everyone that enters the lottery, that luck of the draw could be the difference between having a home in Telluride, and potentially having to move. Rice says that brings up some conflicting emotions.

“It’s one of those things where you’re really excited if you get it, but then people who don’t get it that have to move out of town, that’s going to be really sad,” Rice says.

And while the nature of a lottery means some families will win and some will lose, Andrejko says at some point you have to accept that it’s all up to chance.

“It’s not a competition as far as, ‘if I’m faster or stronger, then I can get it’. It’s literally ping pong balls pulled out of the hat or whatever. I think whoever gets it is deserving,” says Andrejko.

After making it through the application process Andrejko and Rice were granted three numbers in the housing lottery. The drawing will take place at Rebekah Hall on Thursday at noon.