Self-help housing arrives

Program makes home ownership affordable

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— No pain, no gain.

People who wish to participate in a federal program that will make affordable home ownership in Steamboat Springs a reality must throw their back into it -- literally.

The Regional Affordable Living Foundation is bringing the Mutual Self-Help Housing Program to the Yampa Valley. Seven families can participate in 2003, but they will have to work for their shot at home ownership.

Those who commit must not only build their own home but the homes of others enrolled in the program.

"You are actually going to be pounding nails," RALF President Karen Beauvais said. Lower income households in Routt County are encouraged to apply. A single person cannot annually make more $36,749. A two-person household should bring in less than $41,999. Three and four-person households must make less than $47,249 and $52,499, respectively.

Participants cannot already own a home and must have good credit and enough income to repay the loan, which may an interest rate as low at 1 percent.

Families enrolled in the program provide 60 percent of the labor to build three duplexes and one single family home in West End Village.

Construction is slated to begin in the fall, and no one moves in until every home is completed.

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

Everyone who qualifies for the program has something to contribute to the finished project, he said. He 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.

"This program requires very little money, if any, to participate," said Rob Dick, RALF's former executive director.

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.

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

RALF Executive Director Ellen Hoj hopes the program compels renters to cash in a little sweat equity for a house of their own.

Although only seven families will participate in 2003, another 11 families will be sought for the program in 2004.

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