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Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Dan Riddle, owner of Riddle Remodeling, goes into the garage before an Idea House open house in Kearns on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013. Idea Houses are dilapidated, foreclosed properties that are purchased and rehabilitated to revitalize neighborhoods and demonstrate green and healthy living practices to the community.

KEARNS — Sometimes the revitalization of a community begins with one small gesture, setting an example to others of what can be accomplished through effort and ingenuity.

On Thursday, Salt Lake County and the Community Development Corp. of Utah completed and unveiled its latest Idea House in the western part of the Salt Lake Valley.

The newly remodeled home was part of the ongoing Idea House program, which takes an older, rundown house and renovates it using concepts from the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative — an integrated approach to housing interventions that combines federal and philanthropic investments in weatherization, energy efficiency, health and safety.

The result is a holistic approach to making the house safe, clean, energy-efficient, sustainable and accessible, while also keeping it affordable, explained Kristie Thorp, Community Development Corp. of Utah program manager.

The Salt Lake City-based agency hosted an open house at 4765 W. 4925 South.

Kearns, a Salt Lake County township, came into existence in May 1942 as a World War II United States Army Air Forces training facility known then as Kearns Army Air Base. In the wake of the development, several hundred buildings were also constructed. Houses and businesses sprang up rapidly on what had previously been farmland.

Most base buildings, not meant for long-term use, were constructed of temporary or semi-permanent materials on concrete foundations. Thorp explained that most houses were built using cinder blocks and very similar indoor floor plans.

“That’s why the Idea House is particularly well-suited out here because your neighbor's house is almost identical (to yours),” she said.

The organization is a Utah nonprofit corporation with the mission to develop affordable homeownership opportunities and promote stable neighborhoods. To date, the Community Development Corp. of Utah has helped more than 4,000 families in more than 120 communities become homeowners, said Executive Director Darin Brush.

The formerly dilapidated Kearns house was renovated using relatively inexpensive energy-saving enhancements and water conservation features. Improvements to the home include repairs to the roof, new gutters, upgraded attic insulation, along with a high-efficiency furnace and air conditioner, Thorp said.

To further address potential health concerns, low pile carpet was installed in the bedrooms, she added. The carpet was specially designed to decrease dust accumulation, and floor coverings in other rooms of the house were replaced with laminate and tile flooring, she noted.

The improvements will help increase the comfort and improve the healthy living aspects of the home, Thorp said, “(especially) for people with asthma and other breathing problems.”

The renovations also lower the overall utility costs for the new homeowner, she said.

At the open house, homeowners interested in making similar improvements to their homes had opportunity to apply for Salt Lake County home improvement assistance programs.

The Community Development Corp. of Utah is putting the home on the market to qualified low-income families for whom some financial assistance may be available.

The cost of the rehabilitation was approximately $60,000, Thorp said. The 1,200-square-foot, three-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom house would likely go on the market for about $135,000 to income-qualified potential buyers, Thorp said.

Part of the Green and Healthy Homes Initiative of Salt Lake County, the Idea House concept promotes home improvement designs for low- to moderate-income working families. In addition, communities can learn ways to upgrade properties in a cost-effective, affordable manner.

“It’s a way to demonstrate to neighborhoods that there are improvements they could make to their homes to make them safer, healthier and more energy efficient,” Thorp said.

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