By CBS4 Political Specialist Shaun Boyd

DENVER (CBS4) – A family of eight in Denver got an early Christmas present. Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver chose them to launch a program unlike any other.

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Students are building homes called Accessory Dwelling Units or ADU’s. They’re bigger than tiny homes, but small enough to go in the backyards of existing homes.

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They provide rental income to families being forced out by rising property taxes and families, like Phillip Stonaker’s and Heidy Jimenez’s, that would otherwise not be able to afford home ownership.

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As parents of six kids, they’ve dreamed of having a home of their own, but a two bedroom apartment is all they’ve been able to afford.

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“We were actually starting to toss around the idea of leaving Colorado,” said Stonaker.

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Then they learned about a new program by Habitat for Humanity that allows them to buy a four bedroom home because it comes with rental income. A one bedroom ADU is in their backyard.

“We figured we could Airbnb it and black out the dates when family comes to visit or just rent it out to a friend,” Stonaker said.

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Robyn Burns with Habitat for Humanity says the idea behind ADU’s is not only to make homeownership affordable for families who need more space, but to help families at risk of losing their homes because of gentrification.

“The housing payments, because of tax increases, are becoming less predictable and are increasing year over year, putting longtime residents at risk of displacement.”

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An ADU can help offset tax increases.

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“Some of the families that these houses are going to go and help have been in that community for 30 or 40 years,” said Scott Burke, who provides the workforce to build the homes – high school students.

He started a program called Geometry in Construction which teaches students real life applications for math. It’s now in 17 schools in Colorado, and Jefferson County School District plans to become the first in the state to offer it in all their high schools.

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“Of course we want them to learn math, and we want them to have exposure into all the trades as they build these houses, but more importantly, we really want them to get a sense of community,” said Burke.

Burns is also impressed with the kids desire to help others.

“They’re getting involved in the mission of Habitat. They’re getting involved in helping local families improve their housing situation.”

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Families like the Stonaker-Jimenez family.

Phillip says, “You have to pay it forward. There’s a lot of bad that you’ll go through and you keep a good attitude and you stick with your family and your friends and you get rewarded in the end.”

Stonaker works in construction and says he’s impressed by the kids skills.

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“It’s amazing.” He is equally impressed with their service of others. “Thank you all for everything so much.”

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Habitat plans to build 250 of ADU’s over the next five years.

Shaun Boyd