Habitat for Humanity digs into first project in three years
Grand County’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity has been busy over the past several months digging into and building up their newest project in Middle Park, a single family home in Hot Sulphur Springs.
Habitat for Humanity is an international nonprofit organization that helps low income families secure housing, typically through the construction of new homes. The organization is famous for its reliance on volunteer labor during the construction process including numerous public figures such as former President Jimmy Carter. Grand County’s chapter of Habitat for Humanity has been building homes in Grand County for close to two decades though according to Board President Steve Morrison their current project in Hot Sulphur is the first house Habitat has tackled in the last three years.
Their current project has been underway since early August and is being built on Nevava Street just west of U.S. Highway 40. The house is being built for Maria Archuleta and her family. The home is two stories, roughly 1,000 square feet and includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms with an unfinished basement. Morrison said Habitat hopes to complete the project by January 2019.
The current home construction is part of a larger effort Grand County’s Habitat chapter is making over the next few years. Several years ago the local chapter purchased seven lots all in the area around their current project in Hot Sulphur. Morrison said Habitat plans to build at least four homes on the land and possibly as many as six, including their current project. The local chapter’s goal is to construct one house per year.
Construction of the each home is completed through a combination of volunteer labor and contractor work. Contractors often provide their work at significantly discounted prices for Habitat. The total project is overseen by an industry professional, in the case of the current Habitat home George Davis of Maple Street Builders is serving as construction manager for the project.
While volunteers are able, with a little expert guidance, to handle significant portions of the work some projects, such as excavation, concrete work, plumbing and electrical, must be completed by qualified professionals. Volunteers work on the home on designated days each week, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Morrison said Habitat homes must be built to all normal construction standards. While Habitat commits to building complete homes, minus furniture and similar home furnishings, the nonprofit does not construct garages for their future homeowners.
The selection process to find families who will purchase the Habitat homes is set by Habitat for Humanity International and is, according to Morrison, “strictly defined”.
The selection process begins in January, typically ends in June, and follows standard federal regulations. The local chapter will put notification flyers out around Grand County after the first of the year. Prospective applicants pick up applications from Habitat’s local office. After the applications are completed and returned a selection is made based on Habitat’s selection criteria.
According to Morrison the local chapter usually sends out somewhere between 20 and 40 applications a year and normally receives back about half that number. A number of applicants are typically removed because they do not qualify under Habitat’s income level requirements. Morrison said the final selection is made from a short list of candidates, usually around half a dozen.
The homes built by Habitat are not given to the selected candidates. Instead, Habitat sells the homes to the selected family, albeit at a significantly discounted price. Habitat does not require a down payment though every adult who will become a new homeowner through a Habitat project must provide at least 200 hours of her own labor on the project. This “sweat equity” functions as the future homeowner’s down payment. Habitat holds the mortgages on the homes, which are provided to the selected families at no interest.
The cost of a given project can vary greatly depending upon the amount of discounted or volunteer labor Habitat receives. According to Morrison the homes built by Habitat in Grand County have historically appraised for around $200,000. Habitat covers the cost of each project through a combination of donated funds and grants. This does not include the value of donated or volunteer labor.
Habitat also receives significant discounts through a variety of forms from discounted labor costs from contractors to discounted materials. Morrison noted that the trusses used by Habitat are made by prisoners at prisons in Colorado and sold to Habitat for Humanity Colorado at a significantly discounted price.
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