A Community Rebuilds crew works on the exterior framing of a current project. [Courtesy photo]

Before she began work on her Community Rebuilds home, Tamar Phillips was afraid of using power tools. After months of working on the house, however, she’s no longer timid around the tools, and has gained confidence in her ability to do future home repairs.

Community Rebuilds, a unique homebuilding program open to low-income individuals and families, is hosting open houses of two recently completed projects, including the Phillips family’s home at 608 Riversands Road.

Founded in 2010 by executive director Emily Niehaus, Community Rebuilds’ mission is to “build energy-efficient housing, provide education on sustainability and improve the housing conditions of the workforce through an affordable program.” These two homes make 17 that Community Rebuilds has completed in Moab.

Student interns from around the world contribute to the homes’ affordability by donating their labor in exchange for earning college credit and receiving education about natural building and sustainability.

The homeowners also reduce the overall cost, earning “sweat equity” by working a minimum of 16 hours per week during the months of construction. Both homeowners work on each other’s homes, not moving in until the homes are completed.

At the Dec. 14 open houses, the public will be able to tour the inside of the homes, meet the homeowners, as well as Community Rebuilds staff, building instructors and student interns; as well as ask questions about the organization and the process.

The new straw-bale homes are equipped with earthen plaster walls, adobe floors and solar photovoltaics. The homes are also equipped with energy-efficient appliances, including a hot-water-on-demand system – which increases overall, long-term affordability.

Niehaus’ original idea included purchasing lots with dilapidated singlewide trailers, recycling whatever possible, and replacing the trailers with energy efficient homes that ended up being less expensive for residents to heat and cool.

David Casper, a 30-year-old Moab massage therapist, will be present at the open house of his new home at 1140 E. San Juan Ave., a 946-square-foot straw-bale construction house, with both passive and active solar power.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the best deal in town – what you learn, and having a very energy-efficient home, and the ability to fix it – it’s priceless,” Casper said.

He’s already planted nut and fruit trees on his quarter-acre lot, Casper said.

The Community Rebuilds housing program is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, Community Rebuilds Program Director Rikki Epperson said.

Applicants to the program must meet certain income requirements, including the ability to pay a mortgage, and have good credit.

“We offer counseling for credit (repair),” when needed, Epperson said. “We work with people until they’re ready.”

Community Rebuilds will begin breaking ground on its next two projects in early February. The nonprofit organization builds two homes in the fall, and two each spring.

“It’s super lucky for this (program) to be here in Moab where ordinarily many people wouldn’t be able afford anything this cool,” Phillips said.

Community Rebuilds invites public to Dec. 14 open houses of newest projects

What: Community Rebuilds Open Houses

When: Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 2 to 7 p.m.

Where: 1140 E. San Juan Ave. and 608 Riversands Road

Information: 435-260-0501

Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the best deal in town – what you learn, and having a very energy-efficient home, and the ability to fix it – it’s priceless.