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Student training to create attainable housing

It’s no secret that housing prices have shot through the roof this past year, which adds to the slew of housing issues our community already faced before the current spike. Various additional fees and increased costs to build have made it impossible for builders and developers to create attainable housing in our region, and affordable housing simply doesn’t exist. That’s why the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado plans to use proceeds from the annual Contractors Yard Sale on June 26 to invest in programs that will help more families acquire their own homes.

According to first-quarter statistics from the Durango Area Association of Realtors, the median price for an in-town Durango home shot up by 21% over the previous year to nearly $584,000. Bankrate.com estimates a 30-year mortgage for that amount at today’s interest rates would cost more than $2,400 a month – that's more than 42% of the median annual household income of $68,600 in La Plata County. And prices are expected to keep rising.

Literally dozens of state and federal agencies address the need for affordable housing, defined by the office of housing and urban development as a monthly payment equal to 30% of your monthly income. But building housing to meet that threshold usually requires massive subsidies to offset the real costs of construction. As a result, affordable housing accessibility is usually limited to only the poorest of low-income families and individuals. As a professional association, we aim to invest in programs that will help our community build attainable housing – housing that is within reach of our middle-class workers.

City Council members have had to face several large blockades as they take to their new position, one of the longest-standing issues being the housing crisis. How are we to address these issues while still maintaining roads, expanding community green spaces or considering large projects like pedestrian bridges? The Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado aims to find new ways to partner with our city and county planning departments to ensure attainable costs can be met to create the housing that our community needs before we can launch into other side projects.

One of the factors that contributes to high housing costs is a skilled labor shortage in Southwest Colorado. Three years ago, we worked with Durango and Bayfield high schools to start our trades in training program, a national curriculum developed by the Home Builders Institute to train and certify high school students in the construction trades. Our association and its members have purchased or donated materials for students at each high school to build a tiny house from the ground up. In addition, our members volunteer as mentors and instructors to teach students skills like plumbing, electrical work, cabinetry, appliance installation and much more. Students learn from our professionals, and the professionals get an opportunity to see the work of potential employees.

We’ve taken this process a step further by partnering with Express Employment Professionals to train our students in becoming employable and had placing them in qualified jobs based on their skills and the employers’ needs and expectations. Our newest supporting arm, Tool Up, offers students tools to do the job they get hired for once they go through the training and placement process with Express.

Durango High School shop teacher and SkillsUSA regional director, Shaun Smith estimates the 3-year-old DHS program so far has produced about a dozen workers who entered the construction industry immediately after graduation. It is the first step of many with the hope to create a strong pipeline of workers in partnership with our school districts.

Proceeds from our 25th annual Contractors Yard Sale will benefit our youth investments programs, which include expanding our trades in training from Durango and Bayfield into Silverton, Ignacio and Pagosa Springs high schools. Additionally, the HBASC will continue to support graduating students by offering cash scholarships for college and the purchase of tools for students entering the trades directly out of school. Proceeds will also benefit SkillsUSA, a student-run program that builds employment and leadership skills for future workers in more than a hundred different industries.

The yard sale will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 26 in the DHS parking lot, with free hot dogs and drinks and a booth to learn more about these programs, hire summer interns and shop our members’ goods.

To learn more, visit our web site at hbasc.com.

Rebekah DeLaMare is executive officer of the Home Builders Association of Southwest Colorado. She can be reached at (970) 382-0082 or rebekah@hbasc.com.