Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Building dreams in Bellevue

Green home to be built for family of sheriff’s deputy


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

Blaine County Sheriff’s Deputy Rene Rodriguez, his wife, Kristine, and their seven children stand in front of property purchased by ARCH Community Housing Trust for the construction of a green Habitat for Humanity home. It will be one of the first Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED)-certified homes in Blaine County. Photo by

The Advocates for Real Community Housing (ARCH) Community Housing Trust is working with Habitat for Humanity to build one of the greenest and most affordable homes in Blaine County. If the home is built as planned this summer, Blaine County Sheriff's Deputy Rene Rodriguez will no longer have to drive two hours to work each morning.

Habitat for Humanity Blaine County representative Arthur Dahl told the Bellevue City Council Thursday, March 27, that his organization is $50,000 short of its goal to raise $225,000 to build the two-story, Energy Star- and LEEDS-certified home on Fifth Street in Bellevue. The property was purchased by ARCH for $125,000 and sits directly across from Bellevue Elementary School, a convenient location for Rodriguez who has seven children and currently lives 90 miles away in Eden, Idaho.

"This has been an exciting journey for us," his wife, Kristine Rodriguez, told the council. "We have already helped four families get into Habitat for Humanity homes in the Magic Valley since we qualified one year ago."

The Rodriguez family is following a proven Habitat for Humanity model in which homebuyers qualify for affordable, non-deed-restricted homes by donating at least 250 hours of "sweat equity" labor during the construction of a Habitat for Humanity home for a previously qualified buyer. Qualifications also include a steady job history, good credit and earnings at 50 percent or below the median area income.

Last year the Rodriguezes worked on similar homes in the Magic Valley, where 14 Habitat for Humanity homes have been built in recent years.

Habitat for Humanity is an international ecumenical Christian organization that has built 250,000 homes in more than 3,000 communities around the world, including all 50 states in the United States. The cost of homes range from as little as $800 in developing countries to an average of about $60,000 in the United States. Due to the high cost of real estate in Blaine County, the Bellevue home will cost $225,000.

Yet the cost of the home will be based on the income of the Rodriguez family. The land under it will be owned in perpetuity by ARCH and leased to the occupants, who will be able to see more appreciation on their investment the longer they keep the home.

"Rather than relying on deed restrictions to keep home prices within the range of working families, Habitat for Humanity uses a second mortgage on its properties to keep the homes affordable and encourage long-term ownership," Dahl said.

Both mortgages are interest-free loans made by Habitat for Humanity, the first made to the owner and the second to Habitat itself. Dahl said the second mortgage equals the difference between the first mortgage, which is based on the buyer's ability to pay, and the going market rate for the home. Each year a portion of the balance of the second mortgage is excused. If the owner sells before the end of the term of the first mortgage, the remaining portion of the second mortgage returns to Habitat for Humanity to acquire more affordable housing.

"Habitat for Humanity also keeps the right to buy the home back from the owner under a 'right of first refusal' clause, which keeps the homes in the affordable housing pool in perpetuity," Dahl said.

"We would love to see Deputy Rodriguez retire in 30 years and own his own home entirely," he added.

Dahl, a businessman who has owned property in the Wood River Valley since 1976, got involved with Habitat for Humanity after joining a group of volunteers from St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum to help out during the aftermath of Hurricaine Katrina in New Orleans a few years ago. He said the Wood River Valley community is providing thousands of dollars in donated time, money and materials to build the Rodriguez home at a cost of $70 per square foot.

Donors include Valley of Peace Lutheran Church, Church of the Big Wood, Thomas Plumbing, Franklin Building Supply and Garth Callahan Construction. Dahl also has a list of more than 100 volunteers waiting to help build the home, including the Wood River High School Construction Academy during its summer break. Groundbreaking could begin as early as late April.

"The biggest challenge to creating more Habitat for Humanity opportunities in the Wood River Valley is the high cost of land," Dahl said. "My secret dream is that a developer will step forward and say 'I care about the viability of this community' and donate land for this kind of project."

In other Bellevue news:

· The city is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act with a proclamation that April 2008 be known as "Fair Housing Month." The proclamation, read by acting Mayor Tammy Eaton, recognized that the Civil Rights Act included the Fair Housing Act and stated that "equal access to housing is as fundamental as equal access to health and employment."

· Bellevue City Councilwoman Tammy Eaton is pursuing nonprofit status for the collection of funds to build the Skate Plaza Skate Park.

· A public hearing will be held Thursday, April 10, in Bellevue City Hall to consider raising sewer service rates from $35 to $45 a month to pay for construction of a new wastewater treatment facility.




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