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Home construction is about more than building a house and making money


“It was a very, very humbling experience. I couldn’t ever imagine how rewarding it was until I did it,” local builder and Las Cruces Home Builders Association (LCHBA) president Jon Strain said about being a part of the Home Builders’ Casa for a Cause program.

Through the fundraiser, which began a decade ago, a local builder volunteers to build a home in Las Cruces and works with contractors, subcontractors and suppliers who provide their services and materials at or below cost to reduce the price of the house as much as possible. Once the house is built, it goes up for sale at or above the current market price. Because costs have been substantially reduced, the profit is much higher. LCHBA distributes that profit each year to local nonprofits.

Casa for a Cause has raised about $400,000 since it began in 2014, said Strain. His JMS Construction was the lead builder last year, raising $65,000 for donation, he said.

This year, French Brothers Homes is the lead builder for Casa for a Cause, Strain said. Next year, for the project’s 10th anniversary, Hakes Brothers will again be the lead builder, as they were for the very first Casa for a Cause – then called Anniversary House.

A total of 13 local nonprofits divided more than $50,000 at last year’s Casa for a Cause banquet.

“It’s very rewarding to go to that ceremony and pass those checks out,” Strain said.

Instead of making a $5,000 donation to Tutti Bambini, which sells gently used children’s clothing, stuffed animals and toys, books, furniture and more to help children challenged by poverty and special needs, Strain built two storage sheds for the nonprofit, located at 300 El Molina Blvd. Lowe’s Home Improvement and L&P Building Supply donated materials and helped with the construction, Strain said.

Tutti Bambini founder Sister Beth (who also helped found Jardin de los Niños, the Las Cruces daycare and education program for homeless and near homeless children and their families) “has become a very good friend,” Strain said. “I am so humbled and in awe of what she does. I’m so absolutely blessed to know her and get to work with her.”

LCHBA, which was founded in 1959, also sponsors Education House and Build My Future.

The Education House project gives Organ Mountain High School students the opportunity to participate in building a home in Las Cruces every year, Strain said.

KT Homes homebuilders of Las Cruces started Education House alongside Organ Mountain High School, said LCHBA Executive Officer Nicole Perez. The program is now in its second year and plans are underway for a third home building in 2023-24.

During the annual Build My Future, area high school students spend the day with building contractors, subcontractors and suppliers getting hands on experience working with professions to learn about welding, stucco, sheetrock, electrical work, running pipe and much more.

The program lets “kids crawl all over it, put hands on it,” Strain said.

It also gives them the opportunity to learn about a trade that offers good, high-paying jobs without having to spend thousands of dollars on a four-year college degree, Strain said.

Strain said this year’s Build My Future is expected to double in size from last year, with about 1,000 high school students participating. The event will be held in October.

Home building in Las Cruces

After graduating from high school in 1978 in Colorado, Strain was certified as a welder and planned to go to Alaska to work on the $8 billion Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, he said. Instead, he got into homebuilding, moving to Las Cruces nine years ago.

“Las Cruces is a great place to live and build,” Strain said. “I think the future is very bright.”

Strain has been building houses in Colorado and New Mexico for almost 40 years, he said, including everything from 1,100 to 5,000 square feet in size.

“Everything I do is custom,” he said. “We don’t ever build the same house twice.”

And while Strain’s JMS Construction is “very busy,” he said, home builders in Las Cruces are continuing to suffer from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s taking a lot longer to build houses because of the supply chain issues,” Strain said.

Four years ago, he said, it took about six months to get homeowners into a brand-new home. Now, it takes at least a year.

“We keep saying it will go back to normal sometime,” Strain said. “I don’t know what normal is. It’s caused the abnormal to be normal.”

At the same time, he said, more people are building and buying homes, including young couples.

“My big goal” as LCHBA president has been to “improve our community service efforts. We’re builders; let’s build stuff,” Strain said.

LCHBA sponsors Casa for a Cause and Education House and is doing more for nonprofits like Tutti Bambini as well as helping seniors, veterans and the disabled, he said.

And that’s more than construction, Strain said. It could mean helping someone by putting in a wheelchair ramp or changing a lightbulb.

People sometimes “look at homebuilders and think we’re a bunch of rich snobs,” Strain said. “We aren’t. I’m trying to change that image.”

Strain said he got involved with LCHBA nearly eight years ago. The first house he built was featured in the association’s Parade of Homes.

“I want to get the word out about what LCHBA can do for homebuilders, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers,” Strain said, as well as the community. “It’s a partnership for all.”

Strain said homebuilders’ relationships have improved with both the City of Las Cruces and Doña Ana County, partly because of regular meetings LCHBA officials have had with both entities to “go over the concerns we were having,” he said.

“We’ve been able to get stuff done,” Strain said. “That has been a huge benefit to homebuilders.”

Visit lchba.com and jmsconstructionlc.com.