affordable housing

Rural Homes recently broke ground on the Wetterhorn Homes affordable-housing project in Ridgway. The above rendering shows the plans for North Laura Street. (Courtesy image)

On the heels of a successful lottery for the Pinion Park affordable housing development in Norwood, crews broke ground on the new Wetterhorn Homes development in Ridgway last week. Wetterhorn Homes is the second project for Rural Homes, a nonprofit developer of deed-restricted workforce housing in southwestern Colorado. Rural Homes has also completed sketch plans for an affordable-housing development in Ouray, which officials will submit to Ouray Town Council in the coming weeks.

After a year of community input, planning, fundraising and town review, the Wetterhorn Homes neighborhood, located on North Laura Street in Ridgway, comprises 14 deed-restricted, single-family homes for sale to qualified residents. The Rural Homes team plans to pursue a construction process similar to how they approached the Pinion Park housing development in Norwood.

“We’re using the same modular manufacturer, Fading West out of Buena Vista, the same general contractor, Stryker & Company out of Montrose, and the same project manager, Jimmy Merritt,” Rural Homes Project Lead David Bruce explained. “That way, we can employ all lessons learned from our first project in Norwood, and hopefully, build this project quicker and be more cost-effective.”

Available home options include two-bedroom-two-bath units and three-bedroom-three-bath homes, ranging from 1,000 square feet to 1,600 square feet, with and without garages. Homes will include preinstalled access to fiber broadband, efficient air source heat-pump air heating and cooling systems, rooftop solar systems, energy star certified GE appliances, and easy installation of electric vehicle charging.

“There are 10-plus developers in Ridgway trying to build market-based housing, and the market prices have exploded,” Rural Homes Manager Paul Major said. “We anticipate that we’ll have a lot more demand than supply.”

Housing dynamics in Ridgway are different from those in Norwood. Where Norwood is a rural, ranching community, Ridgway is quickly evolving into a rural tourist and resort community.

“One block away, there’s a 1,600-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bath home on the market for $930,000. We’ll be selling two- and three-bedrooms that range from 1,000-1,600 square feet,” Bruce said. “That’s 30-50 percent of the price for what’s currently available. We haven’t even publicized the sales process, but we have over 20 people already who’ve expressed interest.”

A smaller project than Norwood infrastructure-wise, Major anticipates a tighter construction time frame for the 14 homes, which will be priced for the local workforce between in the mid-200,000-$400,000 range.

With crews currently installing key road and town sewer and water infrastructure, the homes are designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood.

“We designed the site plan to have a very similar lot footprint as the surrounding blocks,” Bruce said. “The spacing of the homes and width of the duplexes are very similar to what already exists on North Laura Street so the cadence of homes should blend in pretty well with the existing town.”

Buyers will be selected through a lottery, which will be held later this fall. Potential buyers must include a mortgage pre-qualification from their mortgage lender in order to complete the lottery application.

The project website is already live at wetterhornhomesridgway.co with information about home features and pricing, the buying process, and mortgage products, with deed-restriction forms and lottery dates to be uploaded in the coming weeks.

“Having broken ground last week, we’ll hopefully get our foundations poured in November with homes delivered in late December or January,” Major said.

Come October, Rural Homes also plans to submit sketch plans, designed by Bruce, to the City of Ouray, which will trigger a formal review, planning and approval process to build additional affordable housing on a nine-acre parcel located at 250 Uncompahgre St. The idea, Bruce added, is to plan narrow and long lots, just like the historic plat maps of regional mining towns.

“Ouray has some complexity. It’s a much larger site: Nine acres, so about three times bigger than Norwood and nine times bigger than Ridgway,” Bruce explained. “We’ll work the project into two phases; first programming between 15-20 one-, two- and three-bedroom units.”

Bruce said there are “tremendous opportunities” with the parcel location, enabling Rural Homes to connect the site to the existing Uncompahgre River Trail and integrate home child care units.

“We also want to provide an opportunity to add a transit stop for a bus to be able to bring folks from the parcel into downtown, which will require a partnership effort with the county and town,” he said. “I do think we are aligned on the goal of car-free transit options.”

Ultimately, Bruce added, he’s not only looking forward to working with developable land in the box canyon, but Rural Homes is also gratified to have another opportunity “to program land for deed restricted, affordable housing.”