Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, local schools join forces to house educators

Thursday's groundbreaking will launch construction on 12 homes aimed at district employees

This 2.3 acre parcel will be the site of 12 new Habitat for Humanity homes. The partnership between the local school district and a local Habitat affiliate is the first of its kind in the nation.
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If You Go …

What: Eagle County Schools and Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley groundbreaking.

When: 4 p.m. Thursday

Where: Corner of Whitetail and Grundel in Gypsum. Park at Red Hill Elementary School.

Information: This is the nation’s first partnership between Habitat for Humanity and a local school district. The local affiliate received 70 applications during its last homeownership selection cycle. The next application window opens on June 1, 2019, and closes in September. Visit or call 970 748-6718 ext 125 to apply in June.

GYPSUM — A partnership between Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley and Eagle County Schools is the nation’s first of its kind, and the two groups will break ground this week on 12 homes aimed at district employees.

Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony will launch construction on 12 new properties in Gypsum. School district employees will get first crack at the homes. The partnership is the first among Habitat’s 1,400 U.S. affiliates.

“The housing shortage is immense in our valley, and it is the biggest barrier to attracting and retaining employees,” said Sandra Mutchler, the chief operations officer for Eagle County Schools. “This partnership helps the need, and the Maloit Park development will help, but the community has to continue to work together to develop more moderately priced or deed-restricted property for the people at the heart of the community.”

In 2017 the school district donated 2.3 acres, between Gypsum Creek Middle School and Red Hill Elementary School, known as the IK Bar to the local Habitat affiliate. The school board unanimously approved a Letter of Intent on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017.

“There are 30 Habitat for Humanity affiliates across Colorado, and they’re almost all talking about doing projects with teachers. If this is successful, it might become a model for that,” said Elyse Howard, the development director for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley.

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Five school staffers chosen

So far, five Eagle County Schools staff members have been selected for the program. Rosa Velasco and Vicky Reyes are in the final stages of completing their homes in Gypsum’s Stratton Flats neighborhood. Three school district employees — Elena Chavez, Elvia Gonzalez, and Guillermina Velasco — are scheduled to begin building their homes this spring in the new IK Bar neighborhood.

“The partnership between Eagle County Schools and Habitat is allowing me to become a future homeowner in such a wonderful community,” Gonzalez said.

To qualify for a Habitat home, family income has to be between 35% and 80% of the area’s median income — $75,200 per year for a family of four at the top of that range.

Partner families have to work at least 250 hours, per adult, building their home or other work for the organization. They then buy the home at a zero-interest mortgage, originated by the local Habitat affiliate, to pay off the construction costs.

Approximately 20% of local Habitat for Humanity homes are owned by Eagle County Schools employees, Howard said.

‘What did you build today?

Wander onto a Habitat construction site, and you’ll likely see volunteers wearing T-shirts that ask a very sensible question: “What did you build today?”

“We build homes, community and hope,” Howard said. “We see our homeowners rising to the occasion. Once the basic need of housing is met, they can turn their energy to their community.”

Since 1995, when the local Habit for Humanity affiliate was founded, it has built 74 units. Around 250 local kids live in those Habitat homes.

Currently, Habitat for Humanity is working in the Stratton Flats neighborhood in Gypsum and will build 40 homes there when all is said and done.

At IK Bar, Habitat volunteers will build homes with three bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms.

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