Just do it (yourself) | CraigDailyPress.com

Just do it (yourself)

Program helps put families in homes

Steamboat Springs resident Christina Davis said having children was easier than building her own home through the U.S Department of Agriculture’s mutual self-help housing program, but she also said she wouldn’t change a thing.

The Davis family is one of seven who are nestled into their own homes, built by sweat-equity and financed through HUD.

“We couldn’t be happier,” she said. “We’re loving it in every way.”

And now, 14 more Yampa Valley families are being offered the same opportunity.

The Regional Affordable Living Foundation’s is a nonprofit group that administers U.S. Department of Agriculture rural development funds through Hands on Housing, a program that gives low-income residents a shot at owning a home — if they’re willing to work for it.

Hands on Housing requires residents to meet strict income guidelines, have a low debt load and good credit to qualify for a low- to no-interest load.

In exchange, people must be willing to put in 30 hours a week building homes for about nine months.

By contributing the labor, potential homeowners are building for the cost of materials and some of professional labor needed — electrical or plumbing work.

“It takes someone who has a lot of energy and is willing to build their own home,” said Heidi Nunnikhoven, family coordinator for the Regional Affordable Living Foundation.

Davis said that’s an understatement. Nearly four months after moving in to their completed home, there’s still not a Saturday that goes by that family members don’t appreciate having the day to relax and spend time with each other instead of being at the job site at sunrise.

“We got to a point where we questioned ‘is this really worth it?'” she said. “Our kids sacrificed a lot during the process and that was hard. There were days when you felt bad about what you were putting your children through.”

But, she said, in the end it was everything she hoped it would be.

A group of several homes are built at once — and no one moves into their home until all are built.

“We’re building a community,” Nunnikhoven said.

“It’s neat, because by then everyone already knows their neighbors.”

Davis said the project gave her family lifelong friends who also are neighbors.

The Regional Affordable Living Foundation is geared up to begin two more housing projects in March — eight single-family homes in Hayden and four single-family homes and a duplex in Oak Creek.

The Regional Affordable Housing Foundation has been granted enough money to build 24 houses in 24 months.

“Everybody’s dream is to have their own house,” Nunnikhoven said.

“When you rent, nothing is every yours. It’s nothing you can pass on.”

Hands on Housing provides a construction manager, bookkeeper and power tools.

Approved applicants provide building insurance and their own hand tools.

Many times, no down-payment on the home is needed, but that depends on the person’s or family’s financial circumstances.

The program subsidizes the interest so that the mortgage payments are about 30 percent of a family’s income.

“Basically, you just have to be willing to show up and work,” Nunnikhoven said.

The homes range in value between $125,000 and $150,000.

“We’re still trying to identify individuals who qualify for the program,” said Jayne Garcia, executive director of the Yampa Valley Housing Authority. “It requires a lot of up-front work to get people qualified.”

The proposed homes are a mixture of two and three bedrooms.

For Davis, whose 10-year plan included building a home in Steamboat Springs, Hands on Housing made a dream come true.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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