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Health insurer investing in affordable housing

Health insurance company calls its affordable housing projects a win-win.

DENVER — The Front Range is now famous for its shrinking stock of affordable housing, and a health insurance company that covers about 1.5 million Coloradans is trying to be part of a solution.

UnitedHealthcare's latest affordable housing project is a 91-unit development in Denver's Globeville neighborhood. Construction of The Elisabetta near Interstate 25 and 52nd Ave follows the opening of another affordable housing project in Fort Collins in 2014.

Jean Wilson moved into the 72-unit Legacy Senior Residences on opening day.

“I feel very fortunate,” Wilson said. “Apartment buildings are popping up all around Fort Collins with rent that is 2 or 3 times what I’m paying.”

UnitedHealthcare invested about $13 million in low-income housing tax credit equity for the $14.7 million project for people 55 and older.

Both the insurer and residents point to connections between affordable housing and healthier lives.

“I pay $690 a month for a one-bedroom in this beautiful place,” Wilson said. “We’re not always concerned with – am I going to have money for my groceries or rent or so forth – this helps tremendously.”

“Housing and health are inextricably linked,” UnitedHealthcare Community & State CEO Patrick Gordon said. “Housing is such a driver in healthcare outcomes, it makes sense for a health insurance company to invest – to create affordable, safe housing for the people we serve. When we’re able to do that they can lead better lives, they can lead healthier lives and that works out for everybody.”

In Globeville, UnitedHealthcare has invested $14.7 million in equity for the $27 million development on the campus of Laradon, a Denver nonprofit that provides education, training, and support for children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Construction began in May and is scheduled to finish in December 2019.

Monthly rents are expected to range from about $500 to $1,000 for a one-bedroom, and from $600 to $1,400 for two- and three-bedroom apartments.

“We’re very pleased to be the first health insurer in the market to take this position,” Gordon said. “We think others will follow. We think healthcare provider systems will follow as well. And if we all partner together we could go a long way to closing the gap around affordable housing in this state.”