Thinking Outside the Box Canyon for Affordable Housing

All over rural Colorado, the need for attainable housing to recruit and retain teachers, medical professionals, law enforcement personnel and a host of other key service, trade and professional workers is essential. The rub is that the cost to build housing often exceeds the price that the workforce can pay.

Taking a look locally, the need for new and affordable housing for critical workers in Telluride is, well, critical. The Telluride Foundation is addressing this problem by piloting a model called Rural Homes: For Sale For Locals to finance and build affordable workforce housing in neighboring Norwood, Nucla, Ridgway and Ouray over the next two years.      

Unlike most affordable housing projects, Rural Homes is not targeting government subsidies like low-income housing tax credits. Rather, the model’s construction financing comes from low-interest loans from peer foundations and the state, as well as land contributions from local municipalities and generous donors.

The project’s approach centers on reducing the cost of the overall project by acquiring free land, obtaining low-cost capital for construction and by deploying advanced construction practices and building products.

With their innovative approach, they’ve secured more than $5 million in construction financing to date.

“We are seeing stunning displays of generosity. Our fundraising success demonstrates that everyone wants to help. In fact, one individual purchased land then donated it for a project in their own community,” said Paul Major, president and CEO of the Telluride Foundation. “Alpine Bank is one such donor that supports our operations and initiatives and makes programs like Rural Homes possible.”

Since 2000, the Telluride Foundation has worked to enrich the quality of life of the residents, visitors and workforce of the region. They develop and support initiatives and direct investments that maximize benefit to all, nurture self-reliance and create meaningful change in the community. The Telluride Foundation operates without an endowment and raises funds each year to put to work in real time.

“We work across the entire service area bringing together the resources needed to address our community’s most challenging issues,” said Elaine Demas, vice president of initiatives. “For our staff, helping to improve the lives of everyone we serve makes us all want to jump out of bed, roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

To learn more about the work of the foundation and its Rural Homes: For Sale, For Locals project, visit

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