Colo. CU Part Of Plan To Move 1,000 Into Homes

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In response to skyrocketing home prices here, the $670-million U of C Credit Union is moving forward with a plan to provide permanently affordable homes to working families, young professionals and new immigrants.

U of C Credit Union has teamed with Thistle Community Housing to start a fund called "Alliance for the American Dream," which seeks to raise enough money from private, public and business sources to eventually fund 1,000 homes in the Boulder area.

U of C Credit Union VP of Marketing Rich Jones said with the rising home prices in the Boulder area, 80,000 people can't afford to buy their own home and that 70% of area employees have to commute from elsewhere to work each day.

"That's a pretty large segment of the population," Jones said. "They can't afford to live here. We really value diversity. That's being lost very quickly."

Jones said the average home in Boulder is in the range of $550,000. The residents are older, usually with the kids out of the house, and can spend more on a home, which has lead to a decrease in the size of each household, lowering the number of Boulder residents.

Susan Andre, residential development manager with Thistle Community Housing, said the organization has helped more than 9,000 people buy homes, ranging from town homes to large mobile homes, since 1989. The goal is to move people into 1,000 such homes in the Boulder area over a five-year period using a combination of public and private funds, such as bond financing, for the program.

Andre said working with U of C Credit Union is a natural fit for both organizations. "We're serving the same population," Andre said.

The program works this way: Thistle Community Housing owns the land upon which the home is located, and the home buyer takes control of the structure itself. This arrangement keeps costs and interest rates low and the homeowner also strikes an agreement to share in the home's equity. Andre said the program will help stabilize personal income and increase equity wealth of local residents.

U of C's Jones said one member who took part in the program, Sam Fuqua, is a news director for a Boulder public radio station, just the type of person who wants to stay in the area, and also the type of person U of C and Thistle are trying to keep in the community.

"His income didn't qualify him to buy a house in Boulder," he said.

Fuqua is married with kids, likes his job and the city of Boulder-he just couldn't afford to live there. Fuqua had to sign onto a waiting list with Thistle waiting for his chance at a new home. The partial equity his family will accumulate won't be as good as a normal home purchase, Fuqua realizes, but he can choose where to locate his family.

The Fuqua family moved into a 1,800-square-foot, yellow home with four bedrooms upstairs, living room and kitchen downstairs and a full basement. In 1999, the home was bought for $124,000, which Fuqua said was 60% of the new market rate at that time. The homes are side-by-side construction sharing a common wall with the residence next door. The Fuqua family had been living in a large mobile home prior to buying the four-bedroom home.

"It's not just throwing money down a rent hole. We're still going to make some money and not lose what we put in," Fuqua said. "It makes sense for us."

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