'Habitat' gets first lot finally

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— After two years of looking for a lot to build a home on, Routt County Habitat for Humanity has finally found one. Unfortunately, the nonprofit group had to pay full price.

"We had hoped, dreamed, that somebody might donate a lot or sell us one at a deep discount," said Ray Wright, a local Realtor on the Habitat for Humanity board.

But no such luck in a resort town where land prices continue to rise steeply and rapidly and landowners are eager to make a profit.

Still, board members are excited about the .15-acre lot in Pioneer Village, a neighborhood located near the cemetery on the west side of town.

The small lot will be closed on Jan. 10 and will be bought for $60,000 by donations ranging from $20 to $10,000.

"We decided to purchase this one because prices were going higher and we really wanted to try and build the first house this summer," said the Rev. Larry Olman, president of the Habitat board.

Olman and other board members say the Pioneer lot was one of the few "affordable" lots left in Steamboat Springs that was also ready to build on.

"This one had the utilities and the street," Olman said.

Board member and developer Tom Fox is heading up the building committee and says it plans to meet soon with the family who will be living in the house.

"We want to be able to break ground in the spring, but I'd like to have input from the family we're building it for," Fox said.

Neil and Beverly Marchman are the lucky recipients of Steamboat's first Habitat home.

"We think it's a really lovely area and we're quite pleased," said Beverly Marchman, the mother of four children, including three teen-agers. The family was notified in February that they had been chosen and has been waiting ever since to learn where they would be living.

Marchman works for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. while her husband teaches music at Strawberry Park Elementary.

Habitat families are required to put in a number of hours working on their own home, which is then usually sold to them at cost with a no-interest mortgage.

Marchman has been impressed with the local Habitat board's dedication.

"Habitat really needs the community's encouragement. They've put in so much work, but they have been very discouraged at times," Marchman said about the hunt for affordable lots.

"Hopefully, lots will become available more easily for future families," Marchman said.

Help may be on the way in the form of West End Village, an affordable housing project being developed by the Regional Affordable Living Foundation and a private investor. RALF is a nonprofit group dedicated to supplying affordable housing to residents in Routt County.

West End Village is expected to have some lots that cost about $45,000, an unheard of price in Steamboat.

But RALF and its private investor are still working out financial and technical details with the city.

"We're hoping to raise funds to purchase four lots out in West End Village," said Linda Halton, another Habitat board member.

Meanwhile, Halton says Habitat is ready to collect on the promises made by people to help build Steamboat's first Habitat home.

"We're anxious to start narrowing down our commitments from people who are donating windows, paints and stuff like that," Halton said. She's also putting out a call for warehouse space to store materials.

Board member Jim Spillane said Habitat already has commitments from a number of people with labor and materials.

"We're probably somewhere around 30 percent as far as labor and materials already," Spillane said.

Fox adds that a lot of people have been waiting to see how Steamboat's Habitat for Humanity does on its first home.

"We have to prove ourselves locally," Fox said. "Once we do that, the community will open up their arms and I believe they will donate."

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