Habitat seeks new families success | VailDaily.com

Habitat seeks new families success

Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY — The next few months will be Elyse Howard’s favorite time of year, and not just because it’s summer.

Howard, the development director for Habitat for Humanity of Eagle and Lake Counties, along with the rest of the group’s employees and volunteers, are about to start the application process that will put six families in their own homes next year. Those homes will be built at the Stratton Flats neighborhood in Gypsum, the third year of a three-year project that will eventually create homes for 18 families.

The first six Habitat homes at Stratton Flats are just about ready for move-in, and the foundations are being poured for the six homes to be built there this year. Those homes are all spoken for by families who have already gone through the application and approval process. Each family has invested time, and lots of it, in their new home. Habitat rules require 250 hours of labor from each adult in a family. Those families will also invest their money. Habitat homes are sold to families with no-interest loans helping provide cash for future projects.

Families who apply have to go through an extensive approval process. They must be either citizens or legal residents, must prove they can make their house payments and be willing to work, both on their own homes and on future projects.

Picking the right family takes months of work by the selection committee that meets twice a week for several months. Families are chosen close to Christmas time.

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“It’s a big deal,” Howard said. “You get to meet so many great people.”

Many of those people are in pretty dire straits when they apply for a home. The families are already among the valley’s working poor — families can earn between 35 and 60 percent of the “area median income” of about $70,000 per year. That’s no more than $42,000 per year on the high end, and, Howard said, that simply isn’t enough income to buy a home. People at the lower end of the income scale are sometimes living in one bedroom with a family of four, Howard said.

A Habitat home gets those families into what the group calls “simple, decent” housing. Kristi Moon, marketing director for the local Habitat chapter, said having their own homes can help lay a foundation for success for an entire family.

“We had four high school seniors graduate last year,” Moon said. “All of them went on to college.” Many of those young adults are the first in their families to ever go to college.

Every family that takes the keys to a new home is a success story. And the local Habitat chapter has come a long way from the days in the 1990s when there was some doubt whether the group would ever build a home in Eagle County — hence, the inclusion of Lake County in the group’s service area.

But the group gradually started building homes in Eagle County, from Edwards to Eagle and now, in Gypsum.

The years when Habitat could build four homes a year were viewed as a success. That success expanded in 2011, when six homes were built. Six will be built this year and next.

Still, there’s a lot of work to do, and many more applicants than available homes.

“We got 150 applications for the 16 homes we built in Fox Hollow (in Edwards),” Howard said.

That’s why Habitat is still looking for home sites, volunteers and contributions.

“We really want to increase our building capacity,” Moon said. “We serve a demographic that isn’t being served any other way in the valley.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2939 or at smiller@vaildaily.com.

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