Habitat For Humanity: Advocacy efforts pay off with 24 home starts in 2023 | VailDaily.com

Habitat For Humanity: Advocacy efforts pay off with 24 home starts in 2023

Elyse Howard and her son, Max, meet with Rep. Meghan Lukens and Sen. Dylan Roberts at the Capitol building in Denver.
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Last month I got a bonus day with my younger son Max. He took me up on the invitation to tag along to Habitat’s annual advocacy day at the Capitol. When he accepted, he wasn’t thinking much beyond the chance for some solo time without big brother and a visit to In-N-Out Burger. 

However, I have worked at Habitat his entire life, so he understands that Habitat works to build homes. He has had the chance to meet our local representatives, Sen. Dylan Roberts and Rep. Meghan Lukens on many occasions. They are both approachable and easy for him to relate to — he was game to go see them at their office.

As part of our day at the Capitol, we joined Habitat leaders to meet state House and Senate members, members of the governor’s cabinet and others. I loved doing this and he reveled in the day as well, even managing to visit some of the most historical parts of the building — including the dome. He was able to see firsthand how a bill becomes law and how laws are enacted for the betterment of the overall community — and how Habitat plays a role in it.

Fast forward a month or so — we are excited to share that our advocacy efforts are paying off in the form of more affordable for-sale homes in Eagle County. We received two large grants recently as a result of the once-in-a-generation funding from the American Rescue Act Plan dedicated to housing affordability.

The funding didn’t happen quickly — it was a year-long process. But we are celebrating! These awards will go toward enabling us to build 24 permanently affordable homes this year. Last year only 98 homes sold for less than $500,000 in Eagle County. Eight of those homes were Habitat homes.

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Our local community, the governor’s office, and everywhere in between are working together to shine a light on the need for affordable housing. It’s important that people can put down roots and be a part of the community.

State investment in local work

Habitat is a key stakeholder advocating for resources for homeownership and the housing continuum at the state legislature. We were thrilled transformational resources were allocated toward housing from the state last year. And we are making progress: There are more affordable housing units in the pipeline, zoning codes are being updated and we are having robust conversations across all levels of government and community around how to make building affordable homes less cumbersome. I am excited to share that Habitat Vail Valley was recently awarded $2.3 million in grant funding from the state, which was a direct outcome of these efforts.

We received a $1.2 million Transformational Affordable Housing Grant award created by HB22-1304 toward construction costs for our Third Street project. Out of more than 50 applicants, only eight grants were awarded in the first round. We are so excited to receive this investment for our community.

Additionally, Habitat Vail Valley, in partnership with the town of Eagle, was awarded $1.1 million for infrastructure and impact fees for the Third Street housing project as part of HB21-1271, known as “Innovative Affordable Housing Strategies.” The bill “promotes the development of innovative affordable housing strategies.

These grants are critical to our ability to build homes affordable to our workforce. They provide a transformational investment to our local affordable housing stock. It’s unheard of to bring 24 affordable for-sale homes to market in this community. It was a long process but worth it.

These opportunities show there are many individuals and partners working on the change we so desperately need. I’m also proud to see the impact of my work through Max’s eyes. I love what I do and loved the opportunity to share a piece of it with him. I know when he attends his next Habitat home dedication, he will have a new depth of understanding of all things that go into building a home.

Let us show you our work: This summer we will crane in 16 modular homes on Third Street in Eagle and break ground on eight stick-built homes at Stratton Flats in Gypsum. Our elected officials are listening — get involved. Tell them what’s important to you. Our input yielded an investment of more than $2 million in affordable homeownership opportunities.

What can your voice do?

Elyse Howard is the director of development at Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, where she fundraises and advocates for affordable homeownership. Learn more at HabitatVailValley.org.

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