Habitat, RALF partner for housing

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— Routt County Habitat for Humanity is still looking for land, but in the meantime it is partnering with the county's other affordable housing organization on a project that should benefit everyone involved and may help Habitat in its challenge to acquire land.
Habitat and the Regional Afford-able Living Found-ation are working out a deal where RALF will pay Habitat to renovate 55 units at the Hillside Apartments, Habitat board President Carrie Burggraf said. RALF recently purchased the Hillside Apartments to secure them as affordable housing.
"RALF gets renovations and we get money for land," she said.
RALF will either pay Habitat $1,000 per unit money that could be used to buy land or it may trade out two parcels of land in the West End Village project, RALF Executive Director Rob Dick said. West End is a 100-home affordable housing project being developed near Downhill Drive in Steamboat Springs.
The Hillside Apartments project is a perfect training ground for Habitat board members and volunteers in building and provides RALF with labor, Burggraf said. It also recycles the funds, Dick added.
"This is a real collaborative effort. It's just a wonderful way to get housing built," Dick said. "We're utilizing the cash twice."
Burggraf said that Habitat for Humanity is looking at the partnership as a "Best Practices" model.
Members of the Habitat board already renovated the first apartment to get a sense of how long it would take and what equipment and how much labor was needed, Burggraf said. Dick said the results were excellent.
"They did a fabulous job," he said. "They did it with care, they cleaned up and they took the time."
Dick estimated that it would take about one year to complete the rest of the units. Habitat is still looking for volunteers for this project and Burggraf said people can commit to one unit or as much time as they can give.
Habitat could particularly use people who know how to lay carpet and linoleum.
Burggraf said that this project also helps the first Routt County family selected to build a house with its "sweat equity" requirement. Neil and Beverly Marchman and their four children were chosen this spring as Habitat's "first family" after a lengthy application process.
Since 1976, when Habitat for Humanity was started by Millard Fuller, over 250,000 homes have been built worldwide. Each family or organization that receives a Habitat home must contribute "sweat equity." This means that they must put in a certain number of hours in helping build their own homes, as well as other projects.
The fact that the local Habitat chapter doesn't have a home built yet isn't all that unusual, Burggraf said, noting that each of the organization's affiliates is different. Routt County's Habitat chapter received its affiliation last fall, after taking 11 months to complete the application, which usually takes 12 to 18 months, she said. One affiliate in California took 10 years to build a house, she said.
Often in places where land prices are high, it takes a bit longer, she said. Burggraf said it hopes to be building by this fall or next spring. Most of the work is in the planning stages, rather than the actual construction of a house, she said.
"There's a tremendous learning curve that we're experiencing right now. I'm told that's not uncommon," she said. "We're right on the verge of making a major step."

To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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