Home sweet Habitat home: Laura Gonzalez settles into her new Gypsum home
GYPSUM — Laura Gonzalez moved into her new home on Friday — a home that was built through collaboration between her and Habitat for Humanity.
Throughout two years, Gonzalez applied for and helped build her own home from the ground up with support from Habitat for Humanity, volunteers and her own friends and family.
A secretary at Edwards Elementary School, Gonzalez applied for Habitat for Humanity on a recommendation from a co-worker who had also built a home with the program. Gonzalez has lived in the Vail Valley for 20 years, first living with her parents and moving in with them twice during that time. It was this situation that made Habitat for Humanity’s support such a relief for her and her son.
Habitat’s mission is to ensure everyone has decent living situations, with local chapters all across the country. The Vail Valley chapter builds homes from scratch for applicants who meet the criteria. After Gonzalez applied, the program checked her credit, ability to pay a mortgage and job stability. Gonzalez said it was a nerve-wracking process but several months after submitting her application, Gonzalez’s nerves were given relief when she was selected.
Once an applicant is selected, Habitat covers the cost of everything. No money is required up front from the future homeowner, but he or she does contribute “sweat equity” — hours of work — on top of Habitat’s funds and volunteers. After the house is built, homeowners are expected to repay a mortgage. This mortgage is adjusted to each homeowner’s situation, and never exceeds 30 percent of the homeowner’s income. The mortgage funds go back into Habitat’s accounts to provide finances for future home building projects.
Habitat’s requirement of 250 hours of sweat equity per adult can take several different forms, depending on the applicant. Most commonly the applicant puts in personal labor on his or her future home.
“It’s amazing. I did part of my tile, I put up a wall, part of the floor, too. It was very interesting,” Gonzalez said. “I really enjoyed it (working hard) and lifting. I came most of my weekends.”
Friends and family helped Gonzalez with up to 100 hours of her sweat equity, alongside many other Habitat volunteers. Some volunteers, such as those from AmeriCorps, still keep in touch with Gonzalez.
Building a neighborhood
Right next door to Gonzalez, other Habitat houses were being built at the same time she was working on her home. The neighborhood came together building-wise, while the future homeowners simultaneously took courses to help them learn how to manage home ownership. Gonzalez said that it was nice to get to know her neighbors before they moved in, and that while they were expected to learn a lot during the course of the construction, they had a lot of fun together.
Habitat works hard to make sure its participants are prepared for everything that comes with being a homeowner by providing courses on home management, insurance and more.
“It’s hard work, but it’s worth it, it’s really worth it,” Gonzalez said.
Despite the arduous preparation that Habitat provides for participants, it doesn’t completely separate from homeowners once they’ve moved in. The organization keeps in touch for a year after the families have moved in to make sure that nothing goes wrong and everything is satisfactory.
Gonzalez plans to stay in her new home, at the very least, until her son is away at college.
“Habitat is a great organization that helps everybody … so volunteer. Thank you Habitat for Humanity team, and God bless,” she said.