Providing for a wife and a 5-year-old daughter in Steamboat Springs is not easy when you make $30,000 a year.
After living in Steamboat Springs for 18 years, Chris Lewis, 44, and his family are giving it up, abandoning their 900-square-foot trailer and moving to Hayden.
Although the trip started rough, things are looking up.
Lewis paid $22,000 for his home in Westland Mobile Home Park, where about 150 people live. His trailer is considered too old to move and likely will be demolished with other homes to make room for a proposed Riverwalk project.
"I bought it hoping to use the equity from that to buy a home." Lewis said. "They're kicking us out."
The city has offered to compensate the residents, but Lewis said he would not take it.
"They offered me four grand, and the furnace I put in a year ago was three grand," Lewis said. "It was like a slap in the face, and just on principle I had to say no."
Lewis said the city gave him a list of organizations to contact for help, which included Habitat For Humanity, mortgage companies and the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. Lewis said only the housing authority returned his call.
"I've got a 5-year-old," Lewis said. "If I lose my house, I need somewhere to go."
On Thursday, Lewis was working inside his new three-bedroom home under construction on the south side of Hayden. In addition to his full-time job at Johnny B Good's Diner, Lewis has been putting in at least 30 hours each week on his and seven other homes under construction in Hayden as part of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority's Hands on Housing program.
The program was used to construct seven units in Steamboat Springs in 1998. Six homes are being constructed in Oak Creek.
Families that qualified for the program receive low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural development program, available in towns of less than 10,000 people.
The loans cover such costs as those for the lot, materials and work that is contracted out. A grant pays for the program's administrative costs and for project manager Nick Veenstra.
To qualify, applicants must not have owned a house in the past two years and must work or live in Routt County. A two-person household must also make less than 80 percent of the median income. In Routt County, that is about $46,000.
The houses each will be worth between $210,000 and $215,000 but will only cost from $155,000 to $160,000 to build, Veenstra said.
"They've got about $50,000 to $55,000 in equity when they move in," he said.
Lewis said a similar house in Steamboat Springs likely would cost between $330,000 and $340,00.
He has seen a lot in Steamboat similar in size to his in Hayden costing $190,000.
Some of the houses are nearly finished but will sit vacant because no one can move in until all eight houses are complete, Veenstra said. This should provide some extra incentive for the families who have finished homes to help with the others, he said. All the houses should be done by April, he said.
The 30-hour a week time commitment has been the biggest challenge for some of the families. One of the eight initial families was removed from the project, and another voluntarily quit, Veenstra said. It was easy to find new owners he said.
Families that can make the time commitment get more than a new house.
Some of the owners were green when they started and did not have much construction experience.
"I've done some little things, but I've never built a house," Lewis said. "I could build anything now."
Lewis said it was rewarding to know that he built his home, but having the deed in his hands is possibly the biggest reward.
"Nobody's gonna take it away from me, and nobody's gonna come and give me a piece of paper and say 'Get out,'" he said.
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