The topic of “housing” is on the top of every rural community’s Wish List, but for the folks in Kit Carson that problem is quickly being solved in a unique and state-of-the-art way. Five new houses will soon be placed at two sites in Kit Carson with 2 or 3 of those houses being placed this week on Park Street.
The word “placed” is not often used in the world of housing as more appropriate terms such as built or erected. But in this instance, these new homes will actually be placed—by a crane—like a child’s blocks are placed on top of one another. Each of the five homes are two-story homes with small footprints.
The Kit Carson Affordable Housing Project began two-years ago with a $500,000 HUD Hope VI Main Street Grant application. Since that time a great deal of work and many milestones have been completed.
Kit Carson Rural Development director Amy Johnson, the spearhead behind all the housing success in Kit Carson indicated, “We are currently in the home stretch. This HUD grant was awarded on March 5th, 2021. An intergovernmental agreement was put in place between the Town of Kit Carson and Kit Carson Rural Development (KCRD) for KCRD to manage all aspects of the 2021 HUD Grant. The town was the HUD grant applicant though KCRD wrote all aspects of the grant.”
Subsequently, the grant agreement with HUD was signed on April 30, 2021. A Phase 1 environmental review occurred in Summer of 2021. Then, a HUD part 50 Environmental Review was completed in October 2021. The HUD development proposal was approved in January 2022, allowing work to proceed on this project.
The Affordable Housing Project has cleaned up two vacant, dilapidated, and contaminated sites in the Kit Carson community and has developed them into five, new, two-story, single-family, affordable, detached housing units for-rent and/or for-sale.
These homes are modular houses, built by Fading West Development and will be placed on one of two sites in the Town of Kit Carson. The first site, the Park Street site, will have three, 1216 square foot modular homes. The next site is known as the Main Street site that will have one, 1600 square foot modular home and one 1216 square foot modular home. The 1600 square foot home will meet all Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards (UFAS) requirements on the first floor including in the kitchen, entry, bedroom, and bathroom.
Kit Carson Rural Development (KCRD), a non-profit 501c3, owns both the Main Street and the Park Street sites. The Park Street site is over one half-acre in size. There was a trailer house there, that had been vacant for 35+ years, but that structure was moved off in 2021 by the previous owner. The house located at the Main Street site had been vacant for over a decade and was in a state of disrepair, uninhabitable, and was contaminated with asbestos.
KCRD received a grant from CDPHE to abate the asbestos at the Main Street site. Abatement was completed and the environmental clearance occurred on October 14, 2021. A demo permit was issued, and demolition occurred in late 2021.
With both sites clear, foundations were built in the fall of 2022 for all five homes and all utility hook ups were completed including water, sewer and electrical. All the Fading West homes, which are built and delivered in boxes (10 boxes in total), arrived in Kit Carson by January 9th, 2023.
The set crew arrived on January 23rd and has begun work on setting these homes on their foundations. The crane is scheduled to arrive the week of February 5th.
Both properties involved in this project are in the Main Street area of Kit Carson (an area comprising of Park, Main and Church Streets). Both sites are within one block of the brand new, K-12, $32 million Kit Carson R-1 school, that opened in August of 2020.
All house designs are in accordance with local Kit Carson building codes and have been approved by the Town of Kit Carson. There are already 12 interested parties that have contacted Amy Johnson with KCRD and expressed a desire to buy or rent these homes, and KCRD has not even begun to advertise, aside from Facebook posts and KCRD website posts that update information about the progress on this affordable housing project.
Kit Carson is a small rural community of roughly 250 residents located in Cheyenne County. Like small rural communities all over Colorado, one of the biggest challenges our town faces is the lack of decent, affordable housing. Kit Carson has a large inventory of abandoned dilapidated housing units that are uninhabitable. But, the KCRD has played their cards right as they have obtained bad enough houses that had to be torn down leaving a clean lot with all the city utilities still in tack.
In Kit Carson there are approximately 134 houses. Of those houses, about 101 are inhabited. Of the remaining 33 that are uninhabited, possibly 3 to 4 could be lived in if the absentee owner, would rent or sell, which they won’t.
The remaining 30 odd homes are uninhabitable and have been vacant for a decade or longer. KCRD has spent the last 13 years acquiring vacant properties that are uninhabitable and transforming them into livable houses either by remodeling, or by demolishing and building new. In those years, KCRD has been successful in bringing in 12 new, affordable, single-family homes to Kit Carson and all those homes have been sold with one occupied since their completion.
One other helpful part of what Johnson is doing is described by Johnson herself, “KCRD gave one of the houses we built through the HUD grants to the Kit Carson R-1 School for teacher housing.”
Johnson goes on to state, “There is no private incentive to develop housing as Kit Carson is an inverted housing market; houses KCRD has built in the past have appraised for, and then sold for as little as 50% of the cost to build. The market is improving, but currently the only way to provide affordable housing in Kit Carson is through projects that can leverage federal and state grant funds. There is also no public housing project in our community; the closest one in our county (Cheyenne County) is over 25 miles away in Cheyenne Wells, and it is currently at capacity.”
Johnson goes on to say, “The only new houses built in Kit Carson in the last 20+ years are the eight houses built by KCRD through the 2010 and 2014 HUD HOPE VI Main Street Grants, and one house built independently by KCRD.”
According to Johnson, “Each of the 5 new homes will have reasonable income restrictions, 80% AMI to Rent—currently $68,000 for a family of 4, and 120% AMI to purchase—currently $102,000 for a family of 4.”
While HUD paperwork and requirements were navigated, KCRD was also applying to DOLA Division of Housing for a Housing Development Grant in the late fall 2021 and early winter 2022. This HDG Grant was approved on February 8, 2022 for $225,000 to cover construction costs, and the contract was signed on November 21, 2022.
Finish work on these homes will continue to occur through February and into March. By springtime these homes will be completed, and a certificate of occupancy will be issued by the Town of Kit Carson.
Amy Johnson states, “KCRD believes that projects like these are absolutely the sustainable development small rural communities need to survive and thrive.”
Johnson provided a list of those who made this project possible.
HUD Hope VI Main Street Grant, CDPHE Grant, Kit Carson Rural Development, Cheyenne County Commissioners, Town of Kit Carson, Collins Johnson Family Foundation, Local Charitable Lead Trust, ENEL Green Power, Cooper Clark, DOLA Grants, El Pomar Foundation, and the Eastern Colorado Bank.
If you are interested in purchasing one of these 5 new homes you are welcome to contact, Amy Johnson at 719-342-0711. For more photos and information, you can visit the KCRD website at, kitcarsonruraldevelopment.com.