By Penny Stine
Housing Resources of Western Colorado (HRWC) has been active in Mesa County for more than 20 years, helping more than 350 residents become homeowners through its self-help housing program, offering homebuyer education classes and offering home improvement programs such as the weatherization programs or housing rehabilitation loans for low-income residents.
Right now, the organization is helping 12 families build homes at Butner Estates, a 40-lot subdivision north of Patterson off 32 Road.
“We need 16 more families for the next grant cycle,” said Dawn Walker, housing solutions manager with HRWC.
The next grant cycle will start in March, but Walker encourages individual and families who are interested in the self-help program to begin the process as early as possible. There is a pre-qualification that people can do online via the HRWC website, and after the initial information is gathered and confirmed, prospective homeowners can formally apply for the program and begin the application for the Rural Development Loan.
There are income qualifications, which are detailed on the HRWC website, and applicants must also be willing and able to work 30 hours per week on their own home and on neighbors’ homes. The applicant herself (or himself) must work 15 of those hours, while friends and family can do the other 15 hours.
Once applicants are accepted into the program, they are put in a group of other applicants who all build their homes together. HRWC hires professional contractors for certain tasks, such as pouring the foundation, framing, plumbing, HVAC installation, roofing, finish drywall and flooring. Prospective homeowners learn how to hang drywall, do sheathing, hang windows and doors, set cabinets, and do all painting. There are set work times when applicants must show up and work, and depending on the progress of the homes, they may work on their home or at a neighbor’s home.
No one moves into their homes until all the homes in their group are finished, so there is natural peer pressure to show up and put the sweat equity into your home. The result is a group of neighbors who not only have learned how to do many home improvement projects on their own, but who have already formed bonds with their neighbors over the six to eight months it generally takes to build all the homes within the group.
There are four three-bedroom floor plans currently in use at Butner Estates, and one four-bedroom plan, although HRWC recently added two more plans in an effort to accommodate needs of buyers and the lot sizes and shapes in the development. There is a two-bedroom plan available, but so far, none of the prospective buyers have been interested in building a two-bedroom home.
Those who participate in the self-help program end up with a loan that averages about $183,500. Because they are RD loans and homeowners have spent hundreds of hours building up sweat equity, they don’t need money for a down payment; their work has provided that. Their work also gives them instant equity in their home, as most of the homes appraise for more than $200,000 when complete.
Homes at Butner Estates are not only affordable to buy, thanks to the sweat equity pounded into them by their owners, but they’re also affordable to own, with many energy-efficient features that bring down the cost of utilities. Homes are built with 2X6 framing, and houses have power-packed cellulose insulation, which keeps the heat and the cold (as well as the noise) outside. Homes also have a 95 percent efficiency furnace and a cooling core condensing unit for summer use.
Although Butner Estates borders Patterson, access to the neighborhood is off 32 Road and Jamison Road to the east of the development. There is a five-acre plot of land to the west of the development that was purchased by Mesa County Library, which is planning on building a new Clifton library on the site.
If you are interested in having a home in the neighborhood via the self-help program, visit the HRWC www.hrwco.org/what_we_do/self-help/ for more information, including a table for income guidelines.