From their cramped rental trailer in Oak Creek, Christene and Nicholas Planansky hoped to someday build or buy a home where they could raise their three boys.
Their chances of turning that hope into a reality seemed slim until they heard about the Hands on Housing program, which helps low-income families become homeowners.
The Plananskys were accepted into the program last week and will be among eight families that will help build one another's homes in the Sagewood subdivision in Hayden.
"I've never been so excited," Christene Planansky said. "It was a great feeling that we are going to be able to do this."
The Yampa Valley Housing Authority is coordinating the program, which is funded by a $388,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development. The grant covers administrative costs involved in building 24 Hands on Housing units in Routt County.
The first phase of the program took place in West End Village in Steamboat Springs, where seven families moved into their homes in August. The organization plans to break ground on eight single-family homes in Hayden next month and six homes in Oak Creek in April.
Changes at YVHA, a lack of program participants and other delays prevented a planned ground-breaking in Hayden last fall.
The YVHA is looking for one more family to participate in the Hayden program. It may need more families if current candidates don't qualify for loans or drop out of the project, program manager Heidi Nunnikhoven said.
"We need at least two or three backups," she said.
Qualified families, which may consist of a single person or couple, must qualify financially for the program. After checking credit and other logistics, the USDA provides families 100 percent construction loans. The loans cover the cost of lots -- which initially are purchased by YVHA -- as well as electricity, plumbing, drywall and other projects subcontracted out to professionals.
Applying for the program can be somewhat complicated, and waiting for approval takes a lot of patience and faith. However, YVHA's staff is very supportive and they do their best to solve any problems, Christene Planansky said.
"They've given us tremendous assistance," she said. "They've helped us clear our credit, they are helping us with a budget. ... They've been a big help in the whole situation."
Each family agrees to dedicate 30 hours a week toward ground-up construction of each home. Participants do not need building experience and will have the help of a construction supervisor and power tools provided by YVHA.
The project likely will take between 10 and 12 months to complete.
"The building is going to be difficult, but some of my husband's co-workers have volunteered to help. ... I think we've got a lot of support from the community and friends we have," said Christene Planansky, who works as a girls volleyball coach in Hayden.
Nicholas Planansky works for Atmos Energy.
Vendors, contractors, as well as architectural and engineering firms offered free or reduced services and supplies to help keep down the costs of the West End Village project, Nunnikhoven said.
YVRA is in the process of gathering the same kind of support for the Oak Creek and Hayden project.
Duplex and single-family units in the West End Village project were between $127,000 and $147,000. The final cost of each home in Hayden hopefully will be less than $155,000, Nunnikhoven said.
Christene Planansky said the program is the only foreseeable answer for her family to get out of the rental rut.
"We're just really tired of renting," she said. "Our money is going nowhere basically, and we wanted a home to raise our boys in.
"This is a wonderful program. It helps people like my husband and I get ahead in life."
For more information on the Hands on Housing program, call Nunnikhoven at 870-0167.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.