Denton Renovation Highlights Struggle Over Affordable Housing

Earlier this year, the city of Denton released the results of a poll, asking residents what they liked, and what they were worried about most. On the side of concern, affordable housing topped the list. Now, a community effort is helping one vulnerable segment of the population in the North Texas city.

The house on Beechwood Drive in Denton is a relatively small one. But it's seen as one solution -- to a much bigger issue.

"The affordability issue isn't going to go away in Denton," said Rudy Garza, executive director of Denton Affordable Housing Coalition, the owner of the place four developmentally disabled men call home. The $1,300 a month rent they split is about half the going rate for a similar house. Places like it – are hard to find.

"It's a large problem I don't think people are aware of," said Pam Gutierrez, executive director of Denton County MHMR. "Our clients face these challenges every day."

Denton County MHMR provides services to people who face a wide variety of mental health issues. The agency rents the Beechwood home and a handful of others from Denton Affordable Housing. In Denton, where rents are generally higher than other similar-sized Texas cities, people with mental issues are at a disadvantage, said Gutierrez.

"Folks that live on a limited income, they can't find any type of housing that's safe and that's affordable," she said.

The Beechwood Drive home is getting a facelift. Built in the early 1990's, it's housed MHMR clients since 1999. But it's considered outdated. Renovating the home inside and out is costly. Several in the community have stepped up, donating everything from flooring to a new roof. The city of Denton also secured $22,000 in HUD money for the project.

"We're just one small piece of the puzzle," said Garza. "Nobody can solve this issue on their own. I've said many times, it's going to take a village to figure out this housing crisis Denton is going through."

Advocates for the developmentally disabled say they're the hardest to find affordable housing for. Projects like this, they say, make a difference -- one house at a time.

"I think what it means to them, it's their home," said Gutierrez. "They don't see it any different than you and I. For them, it's just their home."

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