LAKE PLACID — Tashi Sharzur and his wife, Olga, want to put down roots in Lake Placid, and one local organization hopes to rally the community to make that happen.
AuSable Valley Habitat for Humanity, for the first time in the group’s history, is in the process of building a new home for the Sharzurs on a property off The Commons Way. The group is looking to entice members of the community to stop by and help them out starting Saturday, Aug. 21.
On Tuesday, July 27, a small group of volunteers was on site pouring concrete for the basement walls. They began working on the house about two weeks ago, but this project is something AuSable Valley chapter officials have talked about for the past two years, according to HFH Board Member Steve Sama.
“Habitat for Humanity does about one house every two years here,” Sama said. “This is the first Habitat for Humanity house in Lake Placid. We kind of think that’s a big deal, especially given the need for housing here.”
Sama, who moved to this area from Long Island in 2014, has been working in construction his entire adult life. There’s a high demand for luxury home construction in Lake Placid, and developers can make a lot of money building homes for the wealthy, according to Sama. He believes that’s why more developers haven’t taken on affordable housing projects, despite the overwhelming need in Lake Placid.
A 2020 housing needs assessment study from Camoin 310 showed that with a target of 50% of the local workforce living within the community, the town of North Elba and village of Lake Placid have a need for roughly 1,534 “workforce and affordable level” housing units — the majority, 1,013 units, for those who make less than $35,150 per year. In the study, affordable for that income range is defined as less than $879 per month for apartments, and under $123,000 for a home.
Sama hopes this volunteer-driven construction of the Sharzurs’ home — plus Fawn Valley, an affordable housing development slated for construction on Wesvalley Road, which he is also involved with — will serve as a model and encourage other developers to take on similar projects.
“We, as a community, have not been able to support our essential workers,” Sama said. “This (housing project) is the tip of the iceberg. This is representative of what needs to be done.”
Tashi, known as Techung, is a Tibetan musician. Olga is a dancer.
“It is heartwarming to feel that we will have a place to call home in the near future,” Tashi wrote in an email.
Tashi’s parents, alongside some 100,000 other Tibetans, fled Tibet to escape Chinese oppression. They settled in India.
“In my entire life, in India and in the USA — I’ve lived here over 30 years — I never felt settled because I have been missing my home country deeply,” he wrote. “This housing project is giving me a sense of longing and settling. My wife and I have the support of our family and we’re ready to start working on our housing project. We feel totally blessed.”
The Housing Assistance Program of Essex County vetted the Scharzurs’ application to ensure they were eligible for this home, according to Sama. The couple were asked to attend a first-time homebuyers program as part of the approval process. The Scharzurs are required to put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” into their home. In exchange, they’ll have a no-interest mortgage with Habitat for Humanity. The AuSable Valley HFH chapter currently holds 11 mortgages, according to Sama.
The land the home is being built on was donated by Lake Placid real estate agency Engel & Volkers, Sama said. The land itself will be turned over to the Adirondack Community Housing Trust, which will lease the property back to the Scharzurs for about $25 per month.
HFH is hoping that other Lake Placid residents will pitch in to help. Construction days will be on Saturdays starting Aug. 21. Volunteers who drop by can expect to work on “framing, sheetrock, trim, installing siding and insulation,” according to Sama.
“If they don’t know how to do it, we’ll teach them,” he said. “It’s fun. Building is fun. It’s fun to see something grow, and you’re a part of it. We want people to have fun and enjoy themselves. It’s a nice thing, no pressure.”
If all goes well, the Scharzurs will have their own home in Lake Placid by the end of the year.