Craig group explores Habitat

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A small cohort of volunteers is convinced Moffat County needs additional low-income housing opportunities, but it still is investigating whether a Habitat for Humanity chapter is a viable solution.

The group met Thursday at First Congregational Church to map out a strategy for determining startup costs and how to get the seed money to get a building program off the ground.

One option is to enlist the support of philanthropic investors to buy property, renovate it and sell it for a profit.

The proceeds could then be used to launch the first home construction project in Moffat County. The group is putting together a list of potential supporters to whom they can pitch their ideas.

The Habitat for Humanity organizing team consists of Dave Barnes, interim pastor at First Congregational Church; Marilyn Bouldin, the director of the nursing program at Colorado Northwestern Community College;; Ned Miller, a retired employee of Trapper Mine and Jan Rogers and Cheryl Miller, two colleagues in the developmental studies department at the college.

The group formed out of a July 17 meeting that Barnes and members of Lutheran Church of Grace organized to learn more about Habitat for Humanity. Jim Ballard, a board member of the Routt County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity, gave an overview of the program, which sells homes at no profit, financed with affordable, no-interest loans. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments are used to build more Habitat homes.

In addition to a down payment and the monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of "sweat equity" into building their homes and the homes of others.

The Craig group wants to schedule another meeting with Ballard or other board members to clear up some confusion about Habitat's national structure.

The group is unclear about the Steamboat affiliate's bylaws and whether they preclude the affiliate from building a Habitat home in Moffat County. The local group wants to explore whether Steamboat's affiliate can be expanded to be a valley-wide nonprofit, rather than exclusively serving Routt County.

In a phone interview Thursday, Ballard said that might be a possibility.

Evelyn Tileston, the executive director of the Independent Life Center, which administers government vouchers for low-income residents who qualify for federal housing subsidies, said a Habitat for Humanity program would be a welcome resource in the community.

"In the first place, the housing voucher program is frozen right now, so we can't use it to help people," Tileston said. "Habitat would bypass all the Section 8 rigmarole and let people walk into a house made for them."

Tileston said there's a shortage of low-income housing in Craig.

"It's enough of a concern that the ILC and Red Cortner took the lead and formed an informal coalition of interested parties to discuss their views on the need for more housing options for people in Moffat County," she said.

The coalition is looking at accessing public and private funds to complete a study that could bolster grant applications for housing projects in Craig.

The Habitat exploration committee is still collecting information on the program.

Bouldin said the group should "put our money where are mouths are" and get involved in one of Steamboat's house building projects.

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