Ontario contractor says building affordable housing is not an impossible task

  James Griffiths has translated the profits from selling a home into a career of providing solid and affordable living quarters for locals.  He started buying lots in a dilapidated area and making low-cost homes. 
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James Griffiths, an Ontario contractor, talks about the new home he built in Northern Ontario recently. (Enterprise / PAT CALDWELL)

Ontario – A local contractor is determined to help people get back on their feet with affordable housing and is systematically grooming a section of Ontario to make that hope a reality.

“It’s all about helping people move forward because I haven’t had anyone help me,” said James Griffiths.

Over the past year and a half, Griffith has launched a building and purchased a variety of activities along River Street and North Oregon Street, converting dilapidated housing and much into new buildings.

The goal is affordable housing. There are no cutting corners. “I’m proud of my job,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths said his idea for affordable housing broke out more than 10 years ago after he bought a home in the county along Oregon Highway 201.

At the time, Griffith was attending Treasure Valley Community College and working full time. Then he was diagnosed with cancer.

“So, it took about seven years to flip the house. Three years ago, I finally sold it,” said Griffiths.

With the money on hand, Griffith decided he wanted to reinvest in the community.

“At the time, I think, both mentally and physically I was in a place where I could help someone,” Griffiths said.

Griffiths said the “opportunity” to purchase a small house on a modest plot on River Street presented itself.

“It was a methamphetamine house and it was demolished,” Griffiths said.

Griffith used the profits from the first home he flipped out to lead the business on four new floors on River Street. The apartment consists of two bedrooms, two bedrooms, one bathroom and three bedrooms, two bathrooms in addition to a one-bedroom unit and one bathroom American with a disabled law compliant unit.

Once built, Griffiths said, the rent will be $910 — somewhat less than the average rental cost in the city.

“I am very picky about who lives in the units,” Griffiths said.

The completion of four floors prompted Griffith to move forward on a townhouse and triplex project on North Oregon Street.

The trio is almost finished. Two of four units of townhouses have been completed.

The triplex consists of two rooms, two bedrooms, one bathroom, and the basement in the building consists of four bedrooms, two bathrooms,

The townhouse features three-bedroom and two-and-a-half bathroom units.

Next to that cottage, Griffiths plans to lay the foundation for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home he plans to sell for “under $250,000.”

Griffith has already sold one unit of the house – to a single mother of five.

As Griffith sells or rents real estate, he plows profits into future projects.

Griffiths said he’s cutting costs as much as possible while at the same time investing in the quality of the industry.

For example, he said his homes are “very energy efficient.”

“The average light bill is $60 per unit,” Griffiths said. “If I’m going to try to help someone improve themselves, I can’t get a place that isn’t energy efficient.”

Griffith, who works full time with IBM as an infrastructure engineer, completes his contract work after hours or on weekends.

“Weekends and nights are everything,” he said.

Griffiths, 49, said he wanted to provide not only affordable housing, but “nice housing.”

“If you are proud of where you live,” he said, “there is a lot to say about it.”

Griffiths said he spent a lot of time finding suitable subcontractors.

“I use them because they know my purpose,” he said.

He said Griffith’s pursuit of affordable housing has not been easy. Last year, while working on finishing one of his houses, he shot himself in the back.

“I had to have back surgery,” he said.

He also said that finding affordable land to build affordable housing is an ongoing challenge.

Once he decided he wanted to make a difference and help the community, Griffiths said, he spent some time getting his contractor’s license and then making plans for the homes on his own.

Griffiths said the city’s administrative staff – specifically the interim city manager Dan Cummings and his staff – have proven critical.

“I love what he does,” Cummings said. “It’s amazing that someone would be willing to invest money in a downturn.”

Griffiths said his desire to help people find affordable housing was rooted in his childhood. The son of a single mother grew up in a family that often struggled to make ends meet.

I have lived in houses where the walls were missing. “I watched my mother and my sister struggle,” he said.

Even in an era of skyrocketing material prices, Griffiths said, it is possible to build affordable housing for low-income residents.

“I want these homes to be for families who can’t afford them otherwise,” he said.

News tip? Contract Reporter Pat Caldwell in [email protected]

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