Habitat scours Grand County for 10th home recipients
The Grand County chapter of Habitat for Humanity is hoping to build its 10th home in Grand County, but has been struggling to find a family that qualifies.
Habitat helps with mortgaging and building homes for individuals or families in need of a boost, but has been seeking a taker for its next project for nearly a year – the most time ever for this early part of the process in the 11-year history of the Grand County-based organization, according to Habitat spokeswoman Joan Boyle.
The delay in finding the right family can be attributed to a combination of families leaving the area due to a major strain on the local construction economy, along with Habitat making sure some families don’t take on too much debt, Boyle said.
Since prospective homeowners must first qualify to own a home, credit issues and lack of work have been main reasons for the rejection of about 10 to 15 applications to date, she said. Some families are within the income range required, but had debt that out-burdened owning a home. And only a few families applied with incomes “more than the upper limit,” she said.
Habitat seeks applicants with incomes at 25 to 60 percent of the area’s average median income of $72,000 for a family of four.
The organization advises individuals and families with incomes below that threshold to continue renting to buffer them from the extra expenses of home ownership, such as the occasional appliance break or plumbing hardship.
For certain families or individuals who may not qualify for the Habitat program now, the organization provides an 8-week course in financial management to help them escape the jaws of debt, track expenses and get on course toward home ownership.
In addition to income qualifications, applicants must agree to help build a house with 200 volunteer hours per adult in the family.
The organization only considers remodels of existing homes if they have sound structures and zero hazards such as lead paint or asbestos. Updating such homes does pose a challenge to the organizations, since it is so dependent on volunteers for construction labor. Remodels require a certain set of expertise outside of building houses that fewer volunteers may possess, Boyle said. And Habitat homes are now built to meet Energy Star standards to facilitate lower utilities bills to make them more affordable for families to maintain. This may be too expensive or difficult to retrofit in existing homes.
“It’s nice for a family to have a brand-new house, where we know everything works right and the structure is sound,” Boyle said.
Families in Habitat homes agree to a subsidized mortgage with no interest. Mortgages end up to be around 25 to 30 percent of a family’s monthly income.
If a family struggles to pay the mortgage, Habitat gives them one year to rectify the problem and may even renegotiate the mortgage to help families catch up and resume normal payments.
“We’re a mortgage holder with a real heart,” Boyle said.
The newest Habitat home is planned to be in Hot Sulphur Springs on Nevava Street between 5th and 6th Streets.
“We’ve become aware of the challenges in the way for families to succeed,” Boyle said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext.19603
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