Full-time staffer to provide affordable housing assistance to CSU employees

Faculty and staff have just gained a powerful new resource for affordable housing that will supply help with everything from renting to home ownership.

CSU has contracted with local nonprofit Neighbor to Neighbor to provide the campus with a full-time staffer who can connect university employees to an array of services for navigating a difficult local housing market. Beginning Feb. 5, new Housing Solutions Coordinator Debbie Mayer will be based in the Off-Campus Life office, located in the Lory Student Center, Room 274.

Debbie Mayer
Neighbor to Neighbor Housing Solutions Coordinator Debbie Mayer

The offerings include:

  • Rental housing search assistance
  • Short-term assistance with rent to secure housing or avoid eviction
  • Homebuyer education
  • Foreclosure prevention counseling
  • Reverse mortgage counseling
  • Homelessness prevention

“By partnering with an effective and established nonprofit in our community, we not only provide critical services to our employees in need, we also help bolster an important local agency that is doing good work,” said Vice President for External Relations Tom Milligan, chair of CSU’s Housing Solutions Task Force. “We look forward to seeing this innovative approach in action.”

Innovative move

The new agreement is groundbreaking even for Fort Collins, which has long been known for its strong collaborations between nonprofits and other community sectors.

“We’re really excited about this partnership,” said Neighbor to Neighbor Executive Director Kelly Evans. “To see CSU step up and provide their employees with support in this challenging housing market is terrific, and I hope other large employers follow suit.”

It is the first significant step initiated by the Housing Solutions Task Force, which was formed by CSU President Tony Frank in fall 2015 as part of the Re-Envision Colorado State initiative. The need for more affordable housing has been exacerbated by growth in Fort Collins and surrounding areas. According to the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, in the third quarter of 2017 the vacancy rate for Fort Collins/Loveland was 4.1 percent, and the average monthly rent was $1,323.

Housing fair set for Feb. 7 in the LSC

New Housing Solutions Coordinator Debbie Mayer of Neighbor to Neighbor will be on hand to talk with faculty and staff at the Off-Campus Life housing fair being held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 7 in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom.

The event also will feature various housing resources that Off-Campus Life offers students.

Those include “Roommate Roundup” sessions to find potential roommates and housing, an online rental search function, listings from apartment complexes and property management companies and the 2018 Student Handbook, which covers everything from city ordinances to personal budgeting to guidance on signing a fair lease.

Off-Campus Life hosts the housing fair every spring to bring together landlords, property managers, Realtors, community resources and university offices to inform the CSU community about housing options and how to successfully live off campus.

More information about Off-Campus Life’s services is available at ocl.colostate.edu.

Population growth

The population of Fort Collins is now estimated at 167,500, and has grown at more than twice the rate of the CSU student population since 1970.

“That growth is driving up prices — not just for buyers, but also renters,” said Jean Ortega, director of Off-Campus Life and task force member. “Our community’s success has created a squeeze in terms of affordable housing. We’re faced with increased rents, decreased availability and increased demand.”

As a precursor to the new partnership with Neighbor to Neighbor, Ortega said, Off-Campus Life created a web page devoted to faculty/staff resources. Now, Mayer of Neighbor to Neighbor has been hired to serve as CSU’s first full-time housing solutions coordinator.

“To see CSU step up and provide their employees with
support in this challenging housing market is terrific,
and I hope other large employers follow suit.”
— Kelly Evans, Neighbor to Neighbor

“When we read CSU’s request for proposals, we said, ‘This is what we already do,’” said Melissa Frasure, Neighbor to Neighbor program manager. “It was a natural fit. We offer services all the way through the housing continuum, from homelessness to home ownership.”

For example, Neighbor to Neighbor offers financial assistance for first month’s rent to those who qualify. And coming soon is a program called HomeShare, in which homeowners 55 years of age or older who would like to rent one or more rooms of their house are matched with home seekers. The program, developed by Neighbor to Neighbor and the Partnership for Age-Friendly Communities, results in mutually beneficial living arrangements, since the home seeker might be able to pay a reduced rent in exchange for taking on some chores around the house, for example.

Other resources

Mayer, who will be available for appointments with faculty and staff during regular working hours Monday through Friday, said she will also work with Off-Campus Life to connect employees with public resources outside of Neighbor to Neighbor’s suite of services.

“Either we’ll have a program that can help people, or we will make efforts to connect them to someone who can,” Mayer said.

population graph

The move was partially spurred by the fact that instability in employees’ housing situation affects other areas of their life, including their jobs.

“Studies have shown that having a stable home is key to having success in life,” Evans said. “In this housing market, we are seeing families being stressed, and that means parents don’t do well at work and students don’t do well at school.”

CSU Community Resources Coordinator Emma Chavez, who runs the university’s CARE Program and serves on the task force, agreed.

“This new partnership benefits not only the employee, but CSU as well,” she said. “Having Debbie on campus offering housing resources to employees who are dealing with housing issues is like seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m very grateful that the task force was able to get this going and make it a reality. It speaks to how committed CSU is to making life better for our employees.”

‘Live where you work’

“As we continue to recruit the best students, we want to do the same when it comes to our faculty and staff,” Ortega added. “We want to create a place where you can live where you work, and play where you live. Off-Campus Life is really excited about this partnership with Neighbor to Neighbor, and what the future could hold for further support for our faculty and staff on campus.”

Neighbor to Neighbor was formed in 1970 — when a group of Fort Collins residents helped a neighbor with a housing crisis — and is affiliated with the national organization NeighborWorks America. More information is available at www.n2n.org.

Neighbor to Neighbor partners

From left are Neighbor to Neighbor Housing Solutions Coordinator Debbie Mayer, CSU Community Resources Coordinator Emma Chavez, Off-Campus Life Director Jean Ortega and Vice President for External Relations Tom Milligan.