By Bill Hudson
Special to The SUN
As business and government leaders in many Colorado communities struggle to address the growing shortage of affordable housing options in their communities, nonprofit and charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Pagosa Housing Partners have been joining in the search for practical solutions.
Another 501(c)(3) charitable organization joined the effort last year, when Amazing Grace Community Church in Aspen Springs formed Starter Homes for Archuleta with the goal of helping Pagosa’s working families and retirees build their own smaller, affordable homes for under $40,000.
An ambitious goal in a community where — according to the real estate website Zillow — the median sale price of a home here is currently around $336,000.
Starter Homes for Archuleta was founded by Amazing Grace Pastor Mark S. Disbrow, who has been involved in grassroots affordable housing groups and tiny home construction since 2015, “working with people who are getting crowded out or blocked from living in a safe house.”
His organization now has two homes in progress in the Aspen Springs area and will be sponsoring a free seminar on Monday, Oct. 14, to give an overview of the Starter Homes model and to connect with additional families and individuals interested in building their own smaller home.
For additional information about the free seminar, call Disbrow at 444-2111 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Most rentals currently being offered in Pagosa are in the $1,200-$1,500/month range,” explained Disbrow. “At any given time, there are maybe a half dozen offerings in the newspaper. This is meager stock for a county population of 13,500 residents. If only 1 percent of the population is in need of housing at any given moment, that results in 135 people needing perhaps 60 homes. Of these, more than half will need affordable housing — and there is almost nothing available for under $1,000 a month.
“Successful living for future generations rests on owning a home. As a volunteer organization, we rally the surrounding community to build starter homes with low income families to help solve the affordable housing crisis in Archuleta County. Our primary goal is to assist people in building their own mortgage-free starter homes. We provide visibility for public relations, help with sourcing volunteers, ideas and materials, and work to supply never-ending encouragement and motivation.”
Starter home candidates must be strongly motivated to build a home and be willing to be the “lead” builder, Disbrow explained. “They must be willing to put some of their own cash into the project. They need to have regular income and be physically healthy enough to provide labor. They need to have a driver’s license and a vehicle.”
A primary component of building affordable starter homes is to reduce the cost — within the bounds of the Uniform Building Code. A major determinant of cost is the size of the home.
“Because these are starter homes, we start ‘small’ with a building design that allows the home to expand as the family’s resources allow,” Disbrow explained. “Our financial scenario presumes the homeowner owns the land or is able to buy it on a land contract. The homeowner contributes $3,000, or more, from personal savings, monthly earnings or by personal fundraising through family and friends. The total cost of the materials, permits and fees for the home is typically in the $20,000-$30,000 range. Your friends and neighbors contribute their labor as volunteers.”
Starter Homes for Archuleta helps pursue grants for materials from other organizations or builders, while individuals and companies contribute cash which is used to buy materials. The final amounts not funded are raised through constant fundraising as the project builds momentum.
You can get more information about Starter Homes for Archuleta by visiting its website at starterhomesforarchuleta.org or by calling 444-2111.
By Bill Hudson