Community Rebuilds is inviting local residents to visit its newest straw-bale homes on Friday, Dec. 11. [Photo courtesy of Rikki Epperson]

Heila and Br’er Ershadi and their two children have yet to move into their new Community Rebuilds home, but they’ve already bought chickens for the eggs they plan to collect someday. In fact, having a yard is what their 7-year-old daughter Veda and 4-year-old son Cyrus are most excited about.

“We’ve always lived in an apartment,” Heila Ershadi said.

About a year and a half ago, she and her husband decided they were ready for home ownership and began looking into various options.

“Community Rebuilds is such a fantastic option,” she said. “I love the natural building, the passive solar and energy efficiency. I also love that it’s an educational program to help increase awareness of natural building.”

The nonprofit organization tackles the problem of affordable housing in Moab by building energy-efficient straw bale homes with the help of student interns, who volunteer their labor in exchange for college credit and gaining knowledge in green building – which helps to make the homes affordable.

The new straw bale homes are equipped with earthen plaster walls, adobe floors and solar photovoltaics.

The public is invited to come see two recently completed Community Rebuilds homes at open house events on Friday, Dec. 11, from 2 to 7 p.m. One of the homes belongs to the Ershadi family; the other house is owned by Zach Ahrens. Visitors will have the opportunity to meet the student laborers, the instructors and the homebuyers.

The interns come from all over the United States, and abroad – including three from the United Kingdom, and one from India this year. The students work 40 hours a week for five months.

Community Rebuilds Executive Director Emily Niehaus founded the program with the idea of replacing old, dilapidated housing – particularly singlewide trailers – with homes for working families that cost less to build and less to heat and cool.

Homebuyers must qualify economically, be employed, and pitch in 15 hours a week, working alongside the interns and under the guidance of qualified instructors. Community Rebuilds replaced two trailers in the spring, and two in the fall.

“Without a trailer we encourage (applicants) to find the cheapest lot with a trailer on it so we can still recycle and use parts of the trailer,” Community Rebuilds Program Director Rikki Epperson said. Occasionally, homes are built without a preexisting trailer.

Applicants are coached through the process of establishing good credit, and applying for a low-interest loan. To qualify for the program, the homebuyers must be low-income, or very low-income, and have worked and lived in Moab for at least two years.

Currently, Community Rebuilds creates three-bedroom, two-bath homes. However, homebuyers can vary the plan to include two bedrooms with an open room, and/ or have one bathroom as opposed to two, Epperson said. The families choose their own cabinets and appliances.

Although the homes’ footprints are the same, “each build is unique, different,” Epperson said.

“We are looking to create more housing – multi-family housing (such as duplexes) is the next step,” Epperson said.

Community Rebuilds is also considering building two-bedroom, one-bath homes to make the houses even more affordable for individuals with just one income.

Ershadi said seeing their house being built – and helping with it – is something her kids will always remember. Both she and her husband and their friends contributed to the requisite 15 hours per week toward their home’s construction. The family plans to move in after the December open house.

“We are so grateful that Community Rebuilds is in Moab,” Ershadi said.

Public invited to view affordable, energy-efficient homes on Dec. 11

Community Rebuilds is such a fantastic option … I love the natural building, the passive solar and energy efficiency. I also love that it’s an educational program to help increase awareness of natural building.

What: Community Rebuilds Open Houses

When: Friday, Dec. 11, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Where: 631 N. 500 West – home of the Ershadi Family; and 1558 S. Rocky Road – home of Zach Ahrens

Information: 435-260-0501