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Partnering with BarlisWedlick Architects and Ancram landowners, volunteers with Columbia County Habitat for Humanity got together before social distancing regulations were in place due to COVID-19 to help construct homes for Columbia County’s rural workforce as part of the project, Ancram Rural Build. Photo submitted

Ancram Rural Build forges future homes for rural families

ANCRAM — Driven by a mission to build homes for families in need, Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has called upon volunteers from all walks of life to help do just that through the project, Ancram Rural Build, once the health crisis ends.

Speaking as the CEO and Executive Director of Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, Brenda Adams said Habitat for Humanity builds where it finds partners and available land, adding it builds an average of three houses a year. Though she said the organization would like to continue building at that level, it would also like to increase the capacity for which it can build houses.

Given the number of farm workers and tradespersons who  reside in Columbia County, and that “agrarian-related occupations no longer provide entry-level compensation sufficient to purchase and maintain a home,” Dennis Wedlick from the firm BarlisWedlick Architects explained in a description of Ancram Rural Build why his firm partnered with Columbia County Habitat for Humanity and Ancram landowners. The goal, he said, is to develop “affordable, state-of-the-art, low-energy homes” for the local rural workforce.

“Columbia County needs its farm workers, and all supporting rural tradespersons, to have affordable home ownership opportunities,” Wedlick wrote. “Without future generations of farm workers, our agricultural economy, rural character and farmland conservation is unsustainable.”

Designed by BarlisWedlick Architects, the 1,300-square foot houses will be two-story, three-bedroom homes that will use 90% less energy for heating and cooling, which will result in reduced operating and maintenance costs for future homeowners. Two families will qualify to live in the homes and will work alongside project volunteers to build them. In order to qualify, applicants must meet the income guidelines set forth by Columbia County Habitat for Humanity as well as be able to make monthly mortgage payments.

The total applicant household income must include income from all household members, which must be documented by copies of paystubs, W-2s, benefit letters and the like. Monthly mortgage payments must include a principle payment and an escrow payment for taxes and property insurance. The total household income must be enough for the family to make affordable monthly payments, though it can’t dip below 30% or exceed 80% of the median income for Columbia County based on family size. For a family of two, the total household income can’t exceed $50,500 or be below $18,950, while for a family of four, the total household income can’t exceed $63,100 or be below $25,750.

All families selected for housing under Columbia County Habitat for Humanity are required to complete 300 hours of sweat equity to help build their home.

Adams said, “I think community participation is a marker of our success. We’ve been blessed and grateful for the strong community support that we’ve had in recent years.”

The application deadline is March 31; applications can be downloaded at www.columbiacountyhabitat.org. Due to COVID-19, Habitat for Humanity is closed until further notice and will be ready to resume business when the government says it’s OK. Construction of the houses has been postponed. At this time, applications are being reviewed.

For details, call 518-828-0892.

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