Habitat building schedule booked into 2018
GYPSUM — Since Habitat for Humanity came to the Vail Valley, the nonprofit group has faced a constant challenge: finding land on which to build homes. In the past few years, the group has found a willing partner at the Stratton Flats neighborhood in Gypsum.
Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley recently announced it had bought a 0.7 acre parcel at Stratton Flats. That purchase will allow the construction of another six duplex units in the neighborhood, which is located just off U.S. Highway 6. The land purchase — the third so far — will allow Habitat to build homes in Gypsum well into 2018.
When the planned homes are built, there will be 40 Habitat for Humanity families in the neighborhood.
Those families have to qualify financially — they must earn between 30 and 60 percent of the area’s median income. Families must also demonstrate their ability to pay for the homes — via no-interest loans with the mortgages held by Habitat — as well as pay utility bills and other costs.
But families put much more than money into their new homes.
Every adult in an approved family must contribute 250 hours of work to both their own home and those built in the next phase. Finding those families takes a lot of work. There are always more applicants than homes available, so the approval process is rigorous.
Julie Kapala, communications and events coordinator for the local Habitat chapter, said applications have closed for homes to be built in 2016. Applications for the 2017 building season will open in September. Six families will be selected in March 2017, just in time for that year’s construction season to start.
Habitat and participating families are currently putting the final weeks of work into homes started this year. That process was accelerated in the summer of this year by a blitz build which involved a host of volunteers, including from several local construction companies. Thanks to that big push, Kapala said the last of this year’s homes will be ready for move-in in early 2016.
While Habitat has built homes around the valley for the past 20 years, the group has found a real home in Gypsum, starting in the 1990s with a home on Second Street, as well as the homes at Stratton Flats built over the past few years.
“The town of Gypsum has been a wonderful partner,” Kapala said. “They’ve really embraced the idea.”
Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said the town views Habitat as a good partner, too.
“They’re super good people to work with,” Shroll said. “When they walk in the room, you know things are going to get done right. The town has really bought into their mission.”
That buy-in includes providing volunteer labor during building events. The blitz build in the summer of this year saw town building officials Lana Gallegos, Chris Gundy and other employees working at the job sites.
“They got to get dirty and help built a little bit,” Shroll said.
Once families move into a Habitat home, they’re usually going to stick around, too.
Kapala said that of all the homes Habitat has built over the past 20 years, only three have changed hands. New families come from applicant lists, and, since Habitat owns the mortgages, those families are able to get into a home at a good price, then put their sweat equity into homes that are under construction.
Turning new families into long-term residents is good for communities, too.
Gypsum Town Council member Dick Mayne said people who put down roots help build strong communities.
“When you know more people better, you’ll stay longer,” Mayne said. “People integrate into the community, they feel part of the community when they own. … When people own their homes, they’re willing to put more work into it.”
And, while 40 homes doesn’t seem like much, Habitat is helping meet a need.
“When housing’s such a commodity in the valley, it’s great to have this here,” Shroll said.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, firstname.lastname@example.org or @scottnmiller.
Snow usually comes and goes in this part of the state. A forecasted storm is expected to stick around for a while. Forecasters are calling for snow to persist throughout the weekend in the high country, with a prospect of a couple of feet of powder by the time the storm starts to diminish on Monday.