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Dixie land prices hurt Habitat efforts

SHARE Dixie land prices hurt Habitat efforts

ST. GEORGE — The skyrocketing value of Washington County land is making it hard for the nonprofit group Habitat for Humanity to find affordable land or homes for those in need.

"We have families waiting but nowhere to build," the group's executive director Launa Butler said. "This is a very discouraging and overwhelming situation."

The last home Habitat built cost the group $110,000. But Butler said it's recently become difficult to find a piece of land for less than $150,000.

Currently 80 families are on a waiting list for a Habitat home, with three families already selected to receive the next available properties.

"But the process is stalled until we can get some land," Butler said.

Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah has been building three homes a year, with each family required to contribute time — 250 hours from each adult — both on the home and in community service to help cover labor costs.

"This creates a vested interest in the home's outcome as they are involved in every step from flat land to the finished home," Butler said.

Some local agencies, including the Southern Utah Home Builders Association, have stepped up to aid the organization, but Butler said Habitat is still overwhelmed and needs donated land.

Robert Evans, of Evans and Smith Prestige Real Estate in St. George, said he's aware of the strain rising land values may put on nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity. But he said St. George real estate is still inexpensive compared to other locations around the country.

"It's all relative; what we call expensive is unbelievably inexpensive for the West in places such as California, Las Vegas and Arizona," Evans said. "We would still be considered a bargain here by many other locations."

Evans' advice for individuals or groups is to get into the market now if possible. He said prices will likely stabilize, but they'll also continue to rise.

"I hope Habitat is able to find the help it needs now while things are still how they are," Evans said.

With the demand for affordable housing so high, Butler said she hopes to increase the number of houses built gradually until the organization is able to complete at least 10 homes each year. Homeownership is important, Evans said, because it stabilizes families.

"Before this opportunity, they never knew where they were going to live from month to month," she said. "They are at the mercy of their landlords, but as soon as they are selected for a home, they feel peace."