In the spring of 2006, hard work on the part of the members of the Top of The Ozarks Resource Conservation and Development Council came to fruition. A project was launched in partnership with HUD and Missouri State University Extension to promote affordable housing utilizing a presently unused resource -- straw from fescue.
The plan was to inform residents of two counties in Missouri, Ozark County and Douglas County about the benefits of strawbale construction. Each house would be built by the homeowner, utilizing their own labor, donated and hired labor, under the council of a specialist hired by Top of the Ozarks. The specialist would provide the information to potential participants, guide them through the maze of forms for the EPA and HUD, inform about the building codes required by the program and other items as needed. I live with the specialist, Richard Lorenz and I can tell you that he has dug and does dig around through all sorts of research for the benefit of the program and deliver it to the participants or potential particpants so they can do the very best job on the first time around. He makes presentations at various groups using a PowerPoint show with handouts and a much larger PowerPoint program on a CD. The CD which he sends to all who ask for it, includes further information about design, methodology and pictures of successful structures.
A straw bale construction code has been developed in Oregon and in California. These codes, along with the latest UBC will be applied to the homes for them to be eligible for the grant. The codes were developed from experience in other parts of the country where straw bale homes have been going up and either succeeding or failing. There are several successful structures in Missouri -- to the point of having a loose registry. A resource and research group, Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.near Memphis, Missouri has been trying all sorts of different methods and have decided there are things they would do differently on future projects.
The intent is to have 10 homes built in three years which are eligible for a $15,000 grant toward materials and which presents a fine equity in the home.
This program is not like USDA loans, Habitat for Humanity or other programs which work to build homes with/for owners. These groups could easily be involved in construction, but the ownership rests with the homeowner from the first day. When funding is necessary, the homeowner needs to be able to demonstrate eligibility for construction loans and/or mortgages after the fact when needed.
Real estate professionals have some opportunity to be involved when people are searching for their lot in town or the acreage where they will build their home.
This summer, two of the homes are getting underway.