Residents introduced to self-help housing program

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— The organization committed to helping renters become homeowners didn't sugarcoat expectations for its newest endeavor Wednesday night.

"This program and this project are extraordinarily complicated," said Rob Dick, former executive director of the Regional Affordable Living Foundation. "We haven't done this before."

RALF is bringing the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to the Yampa Valley. Seven households can participate, but a shot at home ownership won't come easily.

Everyone who commits must not only build their own home but also the homes of others enrolled in the program.

"You are actually going to be pounding nails," RALF President Karen Beauvais said. Beauvais was one of several people who introduced the innovative project to interested people Wednesday night.

Colorado Mountain College hosted the informational meetings, where presenters offered plenty of facts and figures and answered everything from inquiries about pets to questions about carpet in the finished homes.

There were two meetings attended by about 25 people each.

Participants in the projects will have to meet income-eligibility guidelines. RALF hopes to break ground on the homes this fall in West End Village.

The federal program has succeeded in small, rural communities across the country.

The federal government is especially interested in the program's success in a place like Steamboat Springs, where land and real estate prices are well above national averages, Dick said.

Wolf Bennett, whom RALF hired to design the three duplexes and one single-family home and supervise their construction, encouraged would-be homeowners not to shy away from the challenge of building their own homes.

"There are not too many limitations to building a house," he said.

Everyone who qualifies for the program has something to contribute to the finished project, he said. More hands mean an earlier finish date, although no one moves in until every home is finished.

Bennett intends to make pouring concrete, shingling roofs and installing siding enjoyable.

"It's a lot more than getting walls up -- it's your house," he said.

Bennett and others stressed that a commitment to the program requires sacrifice that can't be measured in dollars and cents.

"This program requires very little money, if any, to participate," Dick said.

Payment is measured in time. Participants must agree to work at least 30 hours a week on their homes and their neighbors' homes until the houses are done.

But the support is there for those who want to get on board.

"If you think you want to do it," Dick said, "we'd love to help you."

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