Keeping it local: How Mi Casa Avon is helping local employees become first-time homeowners
To date, Avon’s Mi Casa program has helped 18 families purchase homes in town
Finding a place to live in Eagle County is no easy feat. Prospective buyers and renters are battling rising prices and shrinking inventory to find a place to live. Especially for members of the local workforce, this can be unattainable.
For Ede Kun and his wife, Lora — who are both waiters in Eagle County — the road to purchasing a home was a nearly five-year journey; one that ended with them purchasing a townhome in Wildridge with the help of Mi Casa Avon, the town’s deed-restriction program.
“It was an on-and off-situation. We were looking, and then we were stopping,” Kun said. “It was very hard for us to buy anything in a normal situation — putting 20% down — because we just didn’t have the money and the prices were just constantly going up.”
Kun first moved to Avon in 2011 in pursuit of the mountain lifestyle. For the first seven years, he lived in Eaglebend Apartments in three different units. His now-wife joined him in 2014, and the couple eventually moved to an apartment above Michel’s Bakery in EagleVail in 2017.
“Renting, at the beginning it was good. I was younger, but then as we grew older it was harder and harder because of the noise situation,” he said. “So we just started getting bored of renting and started thinking of buying.”
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During their five-year search, the couple looked at properties in Vail and Avon, trying to stay upvalley. During this period, they watched the price of real estate nearly double at some properties.
With the rising costs, the couple looked in Miller Ranch, an affordable housing community in Edwards. However, Kun said that they made several attempts to purchase, but with long waiting lists each time, were “too late on the bandwagon” and eventually “gave up on that whole process.”
Ultimately, in March 2020, when the couple found out they were expecting a child — a son, Elio, who was born in December 2020 — they knew it was time to get out of their noisy EagleVail apartment and into something more permanent for their growing family. After diligently checking real estate listings every day for several months, and working with a Realtor, Zac McColley, the couple eventually found the perfect townhome.
“I called Zac and told him to contact the seller immediately. We contacted her I think the day she listed,” Kun said. “We moved super fast with it.”
However, even with their savings, the couple couldn’t quite make their down payment. Kun had heard about the Mi Casa Avon deed-restriction program from a Vail Daily article in fall 2020 and heard about some friends and colleagues who had benefited from the similar Vail In Deed program.
“We were counting every penny,” he said. “(Avon) did everything they could to help me out.”
Avon, through Mi Casa, ended up contributing $83,400 toward the couple’s down payment in May 2021.
Mi Casa was started in the spring of 2020 as a way to help more Avon residents become first-time homeowners in Eagle County. Right before Kun applied for the program in April 2021, the town increased its funding cap per deed restriction from $75,000 to $100,000, to match the increasing cost of local real estate.
Now, residents can apply for up to 12% in town community housing funds to assist with the purchase of a residence in Avon.
At closing, the town purchases a permanent community housing deed-restriction on the property. This restriction maintains that the buyer must use the property as a primary residence for three years, after which it can be either rented or sold to an Eagle County employee. The deed restriction does not limit or restrict the resale price of the residence.
For Kun and his wife, this program was instrumental in helping them close on the property in June — and so far the impact on their life has been “huge,” he said.
“We live in a townhome. Our neighbors are amazing. It’s super quiet out there, and it’s super quiet in the house. We could’ve never imagined that we could’ve lived in Wildridge, for sure,” he said.
Buying the dream home
For another Mi Casa participant, Jennifer Tucker, living in Wildridge was also a “long-term goal,” she said. It was goal that she was able to attain much sooner than she could’ve hoped with the help of Mi Casa Avon.
“It widened the range and it increased my budget, quite frankly,” Tucker said of the program. “It allowed me to get into a home that will grow with my family and work as my son gets older and he needs more space. It allowed me to get into a home that I can see myself in for the next 20 years.”
Tucker first moved to Eagle County in 2009 and lived in Vail for six years. In 2015, she moved back to Texas with the hope of eventually returning here with her son. COVID-19 helped her decide to take that leap — and land a good job as an office manager with a local landscaping company.
“It all just kind of fell into place,” she said.
Except for the housing, at first. For over a year, Tucker scoured the market with the help of a real estate agent for properties within her budget.
Tucker when she had lived here previously had always rented, but moving back she wanted to buy.
“Renting in the valley is stressful,” she said. “From rent going up, to landlords selling, to parking, there are so many unknowns that change from year to year given the market — and not knowing if your lease will get renewed or if it will go up is stressful, especially with a child.”
When she was first looking, the properties within her budget required a lot of renovations.
“A lot of the houses that us normal people can afford are not in the best shape,” she said. “They’re very, as I referred to my Realtor, ‘Vintage Vail.’”
However, when her real estate agent told her about Mi Casa, the program allowed her to not only expand her budget, but free up some money to redo the property and make it perfect for her and her son.
Overall, Tucker found it “incredibly easy” to apply to the program and receive the support she needed.
“I think I got my approval within three days,” she said. “It was truly, refreshingly easy.”
For some, the requirements of Mi Casa — including that the buyer must use the property as their primary residence for three years, and thereafter it can only be rented to Eagle County employees — may feel restrictive, but Tucker said it just made sense for her.
“If you’re trying to work the system, you probably wouldn’t like the rules, but I have no intention of renting it out or not living there personally. So, for me as a true Eagle County resident who works here and has a family here, it’s wonderful,” Tucker said.
“It just made sense in the long run to participate in the program because I have no intentions of leaving or not working here anymore,” she said, adding that the program “truly is for the betterment of the community.”
Crunching the numbers
Since its inception, the Kuns and Tucker have been two of 20 applicants supported by the Mi Casa program. The town approved eight applications in 2020 and another 12 in 2021 — two of which are expected to close this month.
Establishing 18 deed-restricted units to date is a big feat, said Avon Town Manager Eric Heil.
“It would have taken twice as much time and likely twice as much money to build 18 new housing units in Avon,” he said.
The housing properties purchased with the help of Mi Casa Avon have included one-, two- and three-bedroom condos and townhomes and one multifamily four-bedroom property. The average amount the town has contributed to down payments has been $63,405, an average of 11.9% of the sales price.
To date, the town of Avon has awarded $1,159,492 in funds for the 18 closed properties. The two pending properties represent an additional $108,600. With $281,908 remaining in the Avon Community Housing Fund, the program still has some funds to help additional families this year.
“We believe this is a valuable program to advance housing opportunities in Avon, and we plan to continue it in the future,” Heil said. “Ideally, there would be more housing on the market in Avon and that this program could expand in volume in the near future.”
Kun and Tucker both expressed that they wished more people knew about the program. For each of their families, it helped them secure housing in a time when it’s challenging to do so, especially for the local workforce.
“Somehow we have to keep it local, because otherwise nobody is going to be able to live here anymore,” Kun said.