Habitat, schools break ground on groundbreaking project
Grace Avenue will be 12 townhomes over two years
GYPSUM — It’s been a few years since Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley broke out the golden shovels.
Thursday’s groundbreaking for their Grace Avenue project was the first since the groundbreaking at Stratton Flats, where Habitat has been building for years, said John Welaj, executive director of the local Habitat affiliate.
Generally when Habitat starts building a new house they don’t have a groundbreaking, they just break ground and keep building, as they have done 74 times since 1994. But for Grace Avenue, they broke out the golden shovels and hosted a ceremony for a new project.
Welaj said his phone rings regularly with questions from some of the country’s other 1,400 Habitat affiliates, asking how they pulled this off. A vice president from Habitat for Humanity International visited the Vail Valley and called it “evidence of God’s grace in our lives.”
God’s grace often takes human form. At Grace Avenue (a 2.3-acre plot of land between Red Hill Elementary and Gypsum Creek Middle School that the school district donated in 2017) Habitat will build six homes this year and six next year. Grace Avenue is the nation’s first partnership between a Habitat affiliate and a local school district. The school donated the land; Habitat volunteers will supply the labor for the three-bedroom/1.5 bathroom homes.
“We are continuously amazed at the generosity of our community,” said Emily Peyton, Habitat special projects director.
School district staffers get first crack at the homes. Of this year’s first six, five are going to school district employees. Mina Velasco is a preschool assistant and one of the partner families.
“It means we can stay in our own space in our own community and in our own home. I am so happy and thankful,” Velasco 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 homes are owned by Eagle County Schools employees, Elyse Howard, Habitat’s development director said.
Habitat also has 35 lots remaining on which to build at Stratton Flats.
Patrick Tvarkunas needed 237 signatures on a petition to let Eagle voters decide whether The Reserve at Hockett Gulch — a 500-unit workforce housing project — should be built. He and others submitted 304.