“I never thought I’d be able to afford a house here,” she said.
But in just a few days, the 36-year-old will move into her own home in exactly the neighborhood she prefers.
Her opportunity came through Community Rebuilds, the local organization that helps income-qualifying people build affordable and energy-efficient straw bale homes.
The recently completed house at 224 South 300 East is the fourth built here by the Moab nonprofit. Groundbreaking for another Moab project and one in Durango, Colo., is scheduled for spring, with two more Moab homes and one in Gunnison, Colo., planned for next fall.
“We are definitely ramping up,” said Emily Niehaus, Community Rebuilds executive director.
Cost is kept down because the organization connects buyers with low-interest loans and through student volunteers who are recruited to do most of the construction work. Students receive housing and a small stipend each month, but their real payment is learning about straw bale technology, Niehaus said.
Niehaus said Community Rebuilds uses as many recycled and donated materials as possible, further lowering construction costs. Keeping floor plans simple reduces architectural and engineering costs.
Most who toured the home last week agreed that the result is strikingly attractive. Dozens of people attended last week’s open house at VanLonkhuyzen’s new home, which includes two bedrooms, a study that could serve as a third bedroom, and a large living room off the kitchen. Radiant heat comes from water pipes under the floor.
Seeing the house prompted Porscha and Josh Doucette to consider submitting an application to become Community Rebuilds clients. Porscha said she likes the environmental aspects of the building process, including beetle-killed pine from Doug Jones Sawmill in Grand Junction, Colo., in addition to the straw bales from Fruita, Colo.
Josh likes the practical aspect, saying, “We can’t afford an expensive home.”
For VanLonkhuyzen, it was a combination of the two that drew her interest.
“It all feels good – having something people put their heart into and the fact that it’s green,” she said.
Prospective buyers must get a loan for the price of construction – usually around $100,000 – and additional money for the land. The interns work under an experienced instructor, finishing the job in four months.
Students who built the recently completed home came from Argentina, England, Denmark and Turkey as well as New York, Kentucky, Texas and Missouri, Niehaus said. Instructor Eric Plourde directed them in building the house’s trusses, pouring the foundation and other aspects of construction.
The 1,052 square-foot house was built for about $80 per square foot, Plourde said, compared with normal Moab prices at least $100 per square foot.
He noted that straw keeps the houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter than traditional construction. “Straw is a really good insulator,” Plourde said.
Community Rebuilds hopes to eventually get straw from a Castle Valley source, he said.
“We try to keep our material sources as local as possible,” Plourde said.
Lorenzo McGregor was among those at the open house. He had particular interest because he’s the next client on Community Rebuilds’ schedule.
The 32-year-old river guide’s property is located near the Moab Recreation and Aquatic Center, and his loan amount is $190,000. That includes $100,000 for the house, $85,000 for the lot and $5,000 for escrow.
He said he liked what he saw in VanLonkhuyzen’s finished product.
“It’s a fantastic program,” McGregor said. “I’m excited.”
Eligibility requirements for a Community Rebuilds home
Do you qualify for a straw bale home through the Community Rebuilds program? The following information from the nonprofit organization’s website will help you decide:
• Families must fall below low-income limits based on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development criteria
• One member of the applicant family must be a full-time employee and must have at least two years of employment history in their community.
• To qualify for the dilapidated housing replacement program, land on which an applicant wishes to build must have a manufactured home built before June 15, 1976; be a dilapidated post-1976 manufactured home; or be a dilapidated standard framed house.
• Families must be pre-qualified for a mortgage loan to cover land and construction costs through a lender of their choice. Families are encouraged to apply with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program providing low-interest loans for low-income applicants.
For more information, contact Community Rebuilds at 435-260-0501 or email executive director Emily Niehaus at Emily@communityrebuilds.org.