Habitat for Humanity: Homeownership season

“I started crying in front of my class. … I let them know and they clapped their hands! I can’t believe it! I am so lucky and blessed. Thank you. A big weight is lifted. This changes my life! I am so thankful,” a future Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley homeowner recently recounted.

It’s notification season at Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. To say it’s an emotional time is an understatement — we attempt to surprise hardworking applicants at their workplace or in our offices about their selection to partner with Habitat in building and then buying their permanently affordable home. The future homeowners react powerfully — from shock and disbelief to joy and relief. Those of us who get to deliver the news get caught up in the emotion.

The emotions continue as we explain to the 100 or so families why they weren’t selected in this round and encourage them to stay engaged and keep pursuing their home ownership dreams. We staunchly believe everyone deserves a safe and affordable home. Although our community is making strides, there simply are not enough opportunities affordable to our workforce in Eagle County.

Housing has gotten further out of reach for many living and working in Eagle County. In 2022-23, we received 170 applications for 24 homes. Families live in overcrowded or unsafe situations, rent prices skyrocket with no guarantee of housing from month to month, and it is heartbreaking to know there are only so many more families we can help each year.  

It’s because of this large number of people living perilously close to crisis that we are committed to tripling the number of homes we build this year: 24 homes. If it takes a village to raise children, it takes strong partnerships to build a better community.

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On June 22, we will break ground on 16 homes, starting to build a new neighborhood with 16 new homeowners at Third Street in Eagle. This project is a standout in our minds for the partnerships that made it possible, the future homeowners, and the innovation.

The partnerships

Our board of directors was the catalyst for tripling housing starts. They saw the number of applicants in need of housing swell year after year. These families are crucial to the fabric of our community struggling to put down roots in Eagle County. The board led with their hearts and showed bravery as they put us on a path to achieve our aspirational plan to get more families in homes faster.

Third Street represents the best in all of us in the Eagle River Valley. Habitat is special. We have the flexibility, creativity and know-how to get more affordable homes built. We don’t do it alone. It’s because of our strong relationships with the community that we have unique partnerships and new funding sources combined with our acumen, expertise and ability to build more with a tight budget. Habitat can leverage every donation and our partners see that value.

Third Street is our foray into modular building. A shortened build timeline will get families into their homes sooner — as well as increase home production in conjunction with eight homes being stick-built in Gypsum. We are building the modular homes on land adjacent to Eagle Valley Middle School because our land partner, Eagle County School District, donated this parcel. Seventy-five percent of the homeowners work in the school district.

The town of Eagle was integral in helping us secure funding for infrastructure at $1.1 million which was awarded in part because of the town’s work to update their building code and adopt best practices to incentivize affordable housing. They are working to streamline the process and procedural requirements.

The state legislature worked quickly to design a program with the Colorado Division of Housing with the once-in-a-generation fiscal recovery funds aimed at projects that will create transformational change across the state. The Third Street project was awarded a major grant for construction to the tune of $1.2 million.

Finally, Eagle County via the Eagle County Housing and Development Authority is funding the gap between construction costs and affordability with Habitat Vail Valley’s largest grant ever at $3.2 million. 

We invite you to celebrate with us on June 22 at the groundbreaking of these 16 homes and see first-hand how your organization might be able to partner with us on the next neighborhood.

Elyse Howard is the director of development for Habitat Vail Valley. The organization has a three-year goal to triple the number of homes built, helping 40 families achieve affordable homeownership.

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