Polis visit to Norwood project reveals affordable housing challenges, solutions | News | montrosepress.com

2022-07-28 01:14:52 By : Ms. Linda Guo

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Governor Polis visited the Pinion Park workforce housing project in Norwood earlier this month.

Governor Polis visited the Pinion Park workforce housing project in Norwood earlier this month.

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Governor Jared Polis paid a visit to the Norwood Lone Cone Library to visit the Pinion Park workforce housing project and participate in two panels concerning local affordable housing. 

One panel included Rural Homes Manager Paul Major, the Colorado Clean Energy Fund CEO Paul Scharfenberger, and San Miguel Power Association CEO Brad Zaporski.

The panel presented a new model to build affordable housing in rural communities called “Rural Homes: For Sale, For Locals.” This housing model, an initiative of the Telluride Foundation, is being piloted in Norwood, Ridgway, and Ouray.

By integrating donated land, prefabricated panelized home design, low-cost construction finance, and innovative cost recovery into a toolkit, the model restructures the way rural homes can be financed affordably for the region’s essential workforce.

Scharfenberger began by introducing a financing product called “Tariff On-Bill Financing” for moneysaving home upgrades.  “

The process begins when a homeowner applies to the CCEF, which can provide a low-interest, long-term loan,” explained Scharfenberger. 

“The contractor then installs the home upgrade, and then the utility, in this case, SMPA, places a tariff on the meter.  The homeowner pays their electricity bill, which includes the debt service as a separate line item.  Then, SMPA keeps the bill payment and remits the tariff to the CCEF.  This unique product provides capital to homeowners who can’t access traditional loans.”

Zaporski told how the program eliminates financing hurdles for ownership of rooftop solar panels and energy-efficient home heating and cooling, which lowers monthly utility bills and carbon footprints without adding to the cost of the home.  “It’s a ”win-win-win,” said Zaporski. “The folks who move into these homes will have a lower bill and an improved quality of life. The community will benefit from added local housing, and we, as the utility, see added grid resiliency as these ultra-high efficiency appliances are paired with solar, and, potentially, energy storage as well.” 

The cost-savings afforded by the SMPA incentives allow the on-bill repayment amounts to remain lower than the electric utility bill would have been without adding the upgrades.

The governor also heard from Latinx Regional Advocate and Facilitator María Albañil-Rangel, who explained some of the difficulties of buying a home, particular for Spanish-speaking individuals in the region. 

She introduced two local small business owners interested in buying homes in Norwood, who face, not only historically high costs, but documentation barriers that many others in the area do not experience.

Lorena Ortiz, interested buyer, local small business owner and lawful permanent resident, told the governor in Spanish about her experience attempting to buy a home in Norwood and of the difficulties obtaining a traditional loan. Polis, a fluent Spanish-speaker, required no translator to hear her story and to ask questions.

Polis also heard from Jesús Calvo Rojas, owner of a local painting business and subcontractor for the Pinion Park affordable housing project, near which these panel discussions took place. Like Ortiz, he spoke of his near-impossible dream of buying a home despite his lawful residence in Norwood.

Albañil-Rangel brought forth possible solutions, including navigation help, use of Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) rather than social security numbers, and Utility, Telecom and Rent (UTR) for mortgage credit scoring, down payment assistance and specialized mortgage products.

Polis responded with praise for the Pinion Park project and its originators. 

“It’s remarkable to see a project like this, in which pre-fabricated housing is becoming even more competitive and bringing down costs, especially in an area like yours where there is often an extra premium to build,” he said. “It’s very exciting to see what’s going on here in Norwood.”

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