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Local companies helping Vail Valley Habitat for Humanity get homes started

Vail Valley Habitat for Humanity has more to do in a pandemic

Vail Valley Habitat for Humanity plans to finish eight homes this year on Grace Avenue in Gypsum. (Special to the Daily)

One of the many effects of the COVID-19 pandemic includes access to housing, particularly for lower-income people.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley Development Director Elyse Howard spent much of last week at a national conference — held virtually, of course — and returned with a lot of information about the state of housing in the valley, the state and the nation.

“We talked a lot about the impact of COVID on housing,” Howard said.



That impact has been significant, from crowding multiple families into one home to the effect remote learning has had on the workforce.

During the conference, 24 Colorado Habitat representatives met with most of the state’s congressional delegation, or at least those representatives’ staff members. Meetings were held with staffers from both Democratic and Republican representatives.



“Housing is so nonpartisan,” Howard said. “Everyone can relate to simple, decent, affordable housing.”

Habitat representatives talked to staffers about how that type of housing builds strength, stability and self-reliance among those who participate in the nonprofit’s efforts.

HUD can help

Among the requests to lawmakers were continued and bolstered appropriations from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Howard was the only Habitat representative not from the Denver metro area. She said many of her meetings explained what Habitat is doing in Eagle County, discussing the need for essential workers, including teachers.

Some of those essential workers are finding some new homes at the Grace Avenue project in Gypsum. Those homes, near Red Hill Elementary School, are the current focus of the nonprofit’s work.

Howard said Habitat intends to finish work on Grace Avenue this year, and then turn its focus again to homes in Gypsum’s Stratton Flats neighborhood.

The Grace Avenue homes are being built on land provided by Eagle County Schools. Architectural services were also donated.

Habitat locally has been building an average of six homes per year. This year’s goal is eight homes, a 33% increase.

That would be a challenge in a normal year. With the pandemic, building more homes is a bigger challenge. It can be hard to get volunteers on a job site — including those buying the homes with interest-free loans — and still maintain distancing and other public health requirements.

A lot of help

That’s where Habitat’s professional friends come in.

Local companies including Beck Building Company and the Gallegos Corporation have stepped up.

Howard said the local construction industry has provided an “outpouring of help. … We’re so grateful to all of them.”

Beck Building Company President Kevin O’Donnell is a member of the local chapter’s board of directors. O’Donnell said the firm’s relationship with Habitat has always been strong.

“We really believe in their mission,” O’Donnell said, adding that Beck can bring advice, expertise and, when needed, labor to projects. People working for Beck are paid for their time. But, O’Donnell said, those people are eager to participate.

With an ambitious plan for 2021, that help is needed.

Beck crews have helped with putting home foundations into the ground. That was a way to help jump-start Grace Avenue, he said, adding that foundation work isn’t really appropriate for volunteers.

And, he added, those who did the work have said it’s the most gratifying thing they did this year.

After all, everyone needs a place to live.

How it works

Qualifying families help build their homes with a set amount of labor. Those families pay zero-interest mortgages. If a family moves out, Habitat has the right of first refusal on the sale, and sells to another qualifying family. Those who buy existing homes still have to provide labor on a project.

For more information, go to http://www.habitatvailvalley.org.


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