by Nancy Jacobsen, RCAC rural development specialist-housing

Self-help grantees all share a common goal: to help families build their own affordable and safe homes. In Colorado, the long, harsh winters with short days and brutal temperatures that reach below freezing for many months create challenges to reaching that goal. Despite these challenges, Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government’s Central Colorado Housing (CCH) keeps minimal build times and motivated families.

Upper Arkansas Area Council of Government’s Central Colorado Housing (CCH)

CCH has been a self-help grantee since 1999, and has consistently built distinctive and appealing homes quickly with extra design features that include arched door openings and vaulted ceilings.

“We build bull nose and structural soffits in kitchens and living rooms, and vaulted living room ceilings to add architectural interest,” said Autumn Dever, CCH housing director.

Dever believes in keeping things simple and establishing efficient partnerships.

Keeping with the simple, efficient style, CCH uses specific processes to run its self-help builds. CCH provides the families and contractors with a calendar that notes important deadlines such as bill due dates and check signings. The contractors and lumber yards are able to provide the building materials in an efficient and time saving manner because CCH supplies them with house footprint maps, house plans, roofing styles and billing addresses.

Everyone involved in the build is aware of what is expected from them and what to expect from others. Partnerships are developed.

Beginning of construction of self-help home

“The subcontractors know what to expect and the grantee knows what they’ll get from their contractors. Their relationship is based on trust; the mutual trust makes the job easier,” Dever said.

“Hire an efficient construction supervisor who is good at scheduling and planning ahead,” Dever advises. Scheduling and having materials on the job is essential. The construction supervisor has a lot of weight to enforce the rules and make the build run smoothly. He is responsible for keeping the contractors on schedule and the families’ morale up.

CCH increases efficiency and decreases cost by limiting choices.

“We don’t let them have a lot of choices, exterior paint color, vinyl and countertops, flooring, and cabinets. Everybody’s trim is white, we choose their light fixtures, and they are moderately priced so if they want to change them out they aren’t wasting money,” Devers said.

When asked how CCH handles challenges that are certain to arise during the course of a build Dever responded with the same simple approach, “We just deal with it, we just do! We do what we have to do and move on. We know this is construction and things are subject to things happening. Build as fast as possible, but also listen to the family’s problems and let them know they are a priority and we will do whatever we can to help them.”