BEHIND THE HEADLINES
Lessons learned on the home front
September 29, 2001
Q. What did you learn in the process of building the first Habitat for Humanity home? What surprised you?
A. We learned many more things than there is space to comment on here. One of our primary lessons was that we need to plan for simpler design and construction on future Habitat houses. We built a 12/12 pitch roof on this first house in order to provide storage space for a family of six persons. Future Habitat houses will not have such a steeply pitched roof. Since we depend very heavily on volunteer labor for our projects, we need to make our construction design and processes more “volunteer friendly.”
We learned that we will probably need to pay a construction site manager on future projects.
Scott McDonald volunteered more than 1,500 hours and Michael Brennan volunteered hundreds of hours on this first house.
We deeply appreciate their generosity.
We do not know whether we will be able to find persons with contractor/construction skills to donate the needed time for future houses.
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We need to develop relationships with skilled construction workers earlier in the year in order to better plan ahead for their leadership in future builds.
I was surprised by the attitude expressed by some in our town that we do not need to attempt to find ways to provide affordable houses for working people in our community.
I find it extremely callous to say that these workers can drive 20 to 50 miles each way every day and not have time for involvement in our community life.
Q. Now that the first home has been built, what is the next step for Habitat? Has the organization set goals to build a certain number of homes in a certain time frame, and what is needed to accomplish those goals?
A. We are currently launching a joint venture with the Yampa Valley Community Foundation and the Regional Affordable Living Foundation to build a revolving fund for purchasing land for Habitat homes. The Yampa Valley Community Foundation is providing a grant of $50,000 to start the venture. Habitat for Humanity of Routt County and RALF will attempt to raise an additional $100,000. These funds should allow Habitat to buy land to build at least three more houses. When we have built four houses, we can sell one mortgage and thus receive funds for building future Habitat houses. You will be hearing about this “Hundred Hammers For Humanity” campaign soon. We hope to purchase a lot and build a house next summer. Ideally, we will be able to purchase a lot that permits the building of a duplex. This would allow us to more efficiently provide housing for two families. We would need the money for the land that we hope will be provided by the “Hundred Hammers For Humanity” campaign and then we would need the funds for the materials we have to purchase and any labor for which we need to pay.
Q. Are you concerned that the community’s level of enthusiasm for the Habitat effort will slip now that the first home has been built, and if so, how do you plan to combat that?
A. Actually, we see many indications that businesses and workers want to participate again next summer. Several subcontractors who did not participate in this build have expressed an interest in being involved in the next one.
Also, some of the churches that did not sponsor work days this summer have expressed an interest in doing so next summer.
Q. Reportedly, there are nine families on the waiting list for the next Habitat home. What factors are used to decide which family will be the recipient?
A. Habitat for Humanity International has certain criteria that we must follow in selecting families.
Some of the important criteria are that the family cannot be making more than 60 percent of the average family income in this county.
The condition of their current housing is considered. They cannot have previously owned a house.
There are additional criteria that are detailed in the applications.
Q. The recipients of the first Habitat home received an interest-free loan. Could you briefly explain how the financing works for Habitat homes and what the homeowner’s responsibility is?
A. Habitat for Humanity of Routt County raised the funds for purchasing the land and the materials for the house.
The house was paid for when it was built.
The family then pays for the cost of the house with a 30-mortgage with no interest.
The family must make the payment on time as with any mortgage or the house will be repossessed.
The family also agrees to maintain the house in good condition. HFHRC can use the funds paid for the mortgage for building future Habitat
Q. Obviously, Habitat is a piece of the solution to affordable housing in Steamboat Springs. What other types of programs do you believe are needed to help address the affordable-housing problem?
A. Habitat depends on contributions and volunteer labor to build houses. Obviously, this sets some practical limits on the number of houses that can be provided through this means in our community. Also, we are working at the lower end of the spectrum for affordable homeownership here.
The project that seems to offer the best opportunity for providing affordable homeownership for a broader spectrum of people in our community is the West End Village project proposed by RALF.
There might be other proposals in the works, but I am not aware of them.