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Operation Almost Home

Sharon Sullivan
ssullivn@gjfreepress.com
Juan Vazquez puts in construction hours at the Hollow Creek subdivision in Fruita where Housing Resources of Western Colorado is helping clients build and purchase their own homes.
Submitted photo | Free Press

Mutual self-help housing facts

• Payments between $600 to $900 per month

• Interest rates as low as 1 percent

• 33-38 year loan terms

• Zero down — your labor is your down payment

• Immediate equity — build instant value in your new home

• 3-4 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2-car garage up to 1,650 square feet

• Must be at least 18 years of age

• Not a current homeowner

• Have not had a foreclosure in the last three years

• Have not had a bankruptcy in the last three years

• Consistent employment history for two years

• Stay-at-home mother with one-year employment history

Juan Vazquez is getting to know his future neighbors while helping to build their homes, before starting construction on his own house in Fruita’s Hollow Creek subdivision.

The 31-year-old Iraq veteran and his wife, Miriam, like the others in their “build group,” use “sweat equity” as a down payment in building and purchasing energy-efficient homes through Housing Resources of Western Colorado’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Program.

Participants are required to provide 70 percent (or 30 hours a week) of the construction labor, with the help of an on-site field supervisor who teaches people how to use tools and guides them through the home-building process. Families move in when each home in a build group is completed, generally in about nine months.

“I knew how to use a couple of tools, although I’m new to building a house,” Vazquez said. “I’m learning as I go.

“Everybody works hard at what they can do. We have a good group.”

Vazquez squeezes in his 30 hours at the site, in between his job at Colorado Mesa University where he’s also a student studying criminal justice. He’s also the father of a newborn daughter and a volunteer firefighter for central Orchard Mesa.

Friends have pitched in occasionally to help Vasquez meet his required hours, and Miriam has left the baby with her mother for short spells to lend a hand at the work site.

The Vazquez family expects to move out of their Clifton apartment and into their new home sometime in mid-March or April.

sense of Gratitude

Vazquez served four-and-a-half years of active duty in the U.S. Army, of which nine-and-a-half months were spent in Iraq in 2008. He also served four years in the Colorado National Guard and a year in the Army Reserve.

A native of El Paso, Texas, Vazquez moved to Grand Junction in 1997 after his parents split up and his father moved to Grand Junction. He joined the service in 2001, after graduating from Grand Junction High School.

“I graduated on a Friday and the following week I was in basic training,” Vazquez said. “I am grateful I was born here (in the United States) and I wanted to serve my country.”

Vazquez enlisted before the terrorist attacks of 9/11 — “when it wasn’t popular,” he said. “My friends couldn’t relate, but I had a sense of gratitude and I wanted to serve.”

Vazquez and Miriam met at church in Grand Junction during one of his visits home while in the service. They married in 2009.

Vazquez was familiar with the home-ownership program because his father had built his house with Housing Resources in the mid-1990s — a house he recently sold. So when Miriam learned of the program online, she asked her husband to apply and they found they qualified.

QUALIFICATIONS

Last week Vazquez was putting up foam and chicken wire on top of plywood, getting a house ready for stucco, he said.

The site supervisor “guides us through the process of how to build,” Vazquez explained. “He’s pretty patient. He puts people with different skills where they best fit.”

Self-Help program manager Ryan Burkepile provides financial and technical assistance, and help with coordination of subcontractors and the gathering of materials.

The Vazquezes were able to choose their plot, floor plan, roof type, shingles and house color.

Clients qualify for low-interest loans to purchase the homes, with money included to allow for landscaping and new appliances, Self-Help housing specialist Nannette Allen-Brown said.

“We’re lucky — it’s a three bedroom, two bath with a bonus room on top of a two-car garage,” Vazquez said. “We get stucco siding.

“It’s our first house. We’re pretty excited.”

Mutual Self-Help Housing is a nationwide rural development program facilitated by various nonprofit organizations around the country. Mesa County’s facilitator, Housing Resources, has overseen the construction of 310 homes since 1996.

The program differs from Habitat for Humanity, another homeownership program. While Habitat is geared toward the very low-income population, Housing Resources Mutual Self-Help Housing program is for people of both low and moderate incomes.

For example, a single person can earn up to $36,500, and a two-person family can make up to $41,700 and qualify for the Housing Resources program.

Additionally, the Self-Help Housing program builds garages, whereas Habitat does not.

“We serve working families who just need a different route” to homeownership, Housing Resources marketing coordinator Marisa Campbell said.

Participants must be employed, have good credit history, and a reasonable debt-to-income ratio. Housing Resources often works with people by providing credit counseling to help them get on track if needed.

Housing Resources’ mission is to provide affordable housing and promote the wise and sustainable use of resources; the nonprofit organization used to be called The Energy Office. Houses built under the program are energy efficient, Housing Resources executive director Eldon Krugman said.

“A 1,450- to 1,650-square-foot home will heat for less than $400 per year,” Krugman said.

Housing Resources owns 34 of Hollow Creek’s 40 lots and is accepting additional applications. The next build group at Hollow Creek will begin in December. Groups include between five and 14 people.

This program is geared toward working families like Juan and Miriam Vazquez, Allen-Brown said.

“When they started the program, it was just the two of them. Now they have a new baby. It’s perfect,” she said.

For more information or to apply to the program, call Allen-Brown at 970-773-9732; visit the website housingresourceswc.org; or visit the office at 524 30 Road, suite 3. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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