GRAND COUNTY, Colo. — In a county of around 15,000 people, the number of businesses is limited. The industry charged with rebuilding Grand County after the East Troublesome Fire is feeling the impact of a lack of resources.
"I could probably sum it up in one word: overwhelmed," said Steve Jensen, owner of Mountain Top Builders and president of the Grand County Builders Association. "That would be a good descriptor for all aspects. Design, permitting, construction, materials, supplies, trade partners, demand."
The wait to build a home in the area could be several years long; 254 permits were issued this year for new single family homes. That's more than double from 2020 when the number was 103. The year before, it was 114.
"The majority of the builders in Grand County are small volume builders," said Jensen. "It’s not like we have a 100 homes on the books. Our capacity is such that we can only do three or four homes a year."
While the number of permits issued for new home construction is way up this year, it’s not only because of people rebuilding after the fire.
Only 94 permits have been issued for fire rebuilds, less than half of all who say they want to rebuild. The other 160 permits issued this year are part of a boom Grand County is seeing with more people moving to the area during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s forced the building industry to begin prioritizing rebuilding people’s homes after the fire over building someone else’s second home.
"The building department has made it a priority to process permit applications for fire rebuilds at a quicker rate when possible and they are also providing a $500 discount on permit fees," said Jensen.
So the obvious question that comes from this is: Why not just hire builders from Denver to come out and build more homes? Some folks are doing that, but they may run into similar problems down the line in the building process with vendors and people like electricians and carpenters. There aren’t enough of them either in Grand County.
After working for months, if not years, to get money from insurance, it could take years to actually be able to build the home.
"The fire took place in the fall of 2020 and just compounded an already challenging situation," said Jensen.
Construction costs are also very high right now. It costs more to build a home than before. The builders association just got a $100,000 grant that families impacted by the fire can use to purchase building materials for.