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Chaffee Housing Trust has come a long way since it sold its first home in May of 2019. In only two and a half short years, it has grown from a concept to a housing creator that is placing lower-income households with an average gross household income (as a percentage of Area Median Income or AMI) at the time of closing for CHT homebuyers of 69 percent.

“2021 has been everything we never imagined, from compounding contagion to housing market overload, and all the personal challenges that we all have faced as a result,” says Executive Director Read McCulloch. But rather than the challenges weighing him down, McCulloch chooses to celebrate the successes.

Reconfiguration of West Third and M Streets in Salida underway April 9, 2021 as city prepares to transfer deed to Chaffee Housing Trust for affordable housing project. Merrell Bergin photo

First — there is this numeric success: since that first sale, CHT has sold 12 more homes to low-income Chaffee County residents. The houses have been priced between $170,000 and $193,926. CHT has also been able to acquire three rental homes now occupied with low-income renters hoping to buy.

There are 14 more homes under production by CHT in Chaffee County: eight in River Ridge due to be completed in January, and six more located at M St. and Third in Salida to be completed during summer, 2022. Nine more are in the planning stages for possible 2022-23 construction.

These low-income homebuyers have built up $91,800 in equity from mortgage payments alone, and their homes have already appreciated in value, an average of $7,068 per household.

When the rent they haven’t had to pay is considered, these 12 new homeowners have saved $344,400 in rent not paid and instead are home owners with a difference in financial position of $436,280.

Just as important, the average income spent on principal, interest, taxes, and insurance (PITI) is 28 percent, meeting the industry standard of no more than 30 percent of income spent on housing. In a county and region seeing rapidly escalating housing prices, this is a major achievement. CHT homeowner PITI is $822 per month, compared to $1,600 – $2,000 per month for area rents that are still increasing.

Grants and Private Donations have made the Difference

The CHT wouldn’t be able to do what it does without the land on which to build the houses. Land donated to CHT to date has totaled $447,000. CHT grants funds awarded to date to Chaffee and Lake Counties since 2017 have totaled more than $1.9 million.

This kind of growth requires investment in local jobs. CHT began with one full-time staff member and now has 4.5 full-time equivalents. It now has opportunities opening up in Lake County and Leadville as well as continued growth in Chaffee County. According to McCulloch, CHT holds more than $2 million in equity, with steady annual income from grants, donations and development. The goal, putting families on the path to creating intergenerational wealth, is as important as ever.