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A new eight-unit affordable housing project called the Old Stage Road Rowhouse broke ground in Salida on July 18, a cause for celebration in a town that according to the 2016 Housing Assessment, sorely needs workforce housing. The Chaffee Housing Trust project will be located in the Two Rivers development near CR 105 and Scott Street, just east of Oak Street and the U.S. Highway 50 intersection.


“Soon eight families will be living here in homes that will be permanently affordable,” said Chaffee Housing Trust Executive Director Read McCulloch. “This is the first time ever that a project like this has been created in rural Colorado. These units will be built and offered at the 80-percent average median income – making home ownership possible for first-time home buyers. That means we have gotten concessions so that the home buyer cost will be $170,000. The homes can be passed on to family members, and if sold, a portion of the profits will go to the homeowner, and the rest will remain in the home so that it can stay permanently affordable.”


To make that $170,000 home buyer number work, CCH has worked with many municipal and private partners to get cost concessions: waivers for things like city water tap fees and school fees, and bringing the cost of land within reach. Part of the city’s project approval for the Two Rivers housing development was a commitment that eight of the units would be affordable units. High Country Bank worked with CCH and will work with the homebuyers to qualify buyers and create mortgages within workforce income parameters.


While the gathering was replete with city, county and Chaffee Housing Trust board members, it was the hopeful owner of the first of the unit to be built, Laura Pagor and her 16-year-old daughter, Stevie Brown, whose presence made the event even more meaningful.


“This is a real godsend. I never thought that I could ever afford to own my own home. I am so grateful,” said Pagor. “I began working with CHT, taking the first-time home buyer class, learning about things like credit ratings. I didn’t have any debt except for student loans, but I really didn’t know that owning a home was something that could happen. I would love to see this program expanded so that something like this can spread. I’ll be the first generation of my family to own a home. It’s a true blessing.”


The Chaffee Housing Trust is a local nonprofit created to develop home ownership and rental opportunities that are affordable for lower-income workers and residents who cannot afford market-rate housing. It builds homes using what has come to be called the “community land trust model,” designed to preserve affordability in perpetuity. Grants and donations invested in each home stay with that home as a community asset.


It has taken 10 years of what McCulloch calls “tenacity and passion” to reach this point, since it was founded on July 18, 2008. “For this organization, affordability is the most important issue in housing.”  


CHT board members echoed that passion. “Over the generations my own family has benefited from  housing programs like the GI Bill, code policies and zoning policies to get on the wealth-building path to security,” said Chaffee Commissioner Keith Baker. “This is ‘we the people’ helping each other. There is a role for government in encouraging affordable housing.”


The project timeline calls for units to be completed by early December 2018. “We hope to be home for Christmas,” said Pagor. “You just don’t know what that means to us.”

Photo: Turning the dirt at the groundbreaking for Old Stage Road Rowhouse, eight new affordable homes being built by Chaffee Housing Trust, are left to right; Salida Mayor P.T. Wood, Chaffee County Commissioner and Chaffee Housing Trust Board member Keith Baker; Chaffee Housing Trust Board Vice President Ken Matthews, Treasurer Greg Follet, President Don Stephens, Natural Habitats President Tom Pokorny, Joe Smith of High Country Bank, board member Eileen Rogers, and Lisa Wood of Great Western Homes (photo by Jan Wondra).