Habitat for Humanity buys duplex lots

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— Habitat for Humanity is hoping the purchase of three duplex lots will put a significant and long-lasting dent in Steamboat Springs' affordable housing problem.

For the last two years, the organization has been working with two other non-profits to raise $150,000 for the purchase of lots in West End Village, Steamboat's first affordable housing project for homeowners.

The Yampa Valley Community Foundation, which started the Hundred Hammers for Humanity fundraiser, handed over the $150,000 check this month. The Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity and the Regional Affordable Living Foundation each raised $50,000 for the project.

Three years ago, the nonprofit community foundation wanted to do a project that would make a noticeable difference in the community, Trustee Julie Green said. It looked at everything from suicide prevention to youth services before settling on affordable housing.

"We wanted to feel an impact with the amount of funds raised," Green said. "What Habitat was doing really made sense."

After talking with RALF Director Rob Dick, the community foundation decided to create a revolving land fund. Habitat has a program where, for every fourth house built, the local chapter can sell one of the mortgages and add it to their fund.

The average mortgage for a Habitat house is about $150,000, Green said.

The high cost of land is the largest obstacle in providing affordable housing in Steamboat. By selling the mortgage for every fourth house, Habitat will continually replenish the money it uses to buy land.

"It gives us a never-ending source for funds," Green said.

Larry Oman, who is the president of the local Habitat for Humanity chapter, said building on the first duplex is scheduled to begin in June. The organization has already selected one family for the unit: Ellen Clare, a mother of two who works as an administrative assistant for a local architect.

Oman said they are still taking applications for a second family.

In 2001, Habitat built its first house for Beverly and Neil Marchman and their four children. The 1,100-square-foot house took four months and 330 volunteers to build.

At first, some criticized how long it took to build the one house and the small impact it had on the community, Community Foundation Executive President Dianne Sutton said.

"What is really exciting, the first house seemed to take a long time. The community was somewhat surprised by Habitat, which was new at the time" Sutton said. "We jumped quickly from a single house to six in a very short period of time and were able to make some strong strides in affordable housing."

Oman said volunteers would be needed this summer and that Habitat is looking for construction materials to be donated or discounted. Habitat is also looking for a construction manager.

The infrastructure for the West End Village Project finished up this spring and modular homes for the RALF-owned lots could arrive in the next two weeks, Dick said


-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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