Habitat for Humanity: We can all be builders | VailDaily.com

Habitat for Humanity: We can all be builders

Kristin Kenney Williams
Habitat for Humanity

For those of you who have volunteered at a Habitat Build Day, you know that you are often joined on the job site by a Habitat family contributing to their required volunteer hours.

On a day last fall, we were joined by 7-year-old Brianna who shared what she was most looking forward to when her family could move into the new home that they would own: A house to decorate for Christmas and a staircase to play on.

Kristin Kenney Williams

To most of us, a staircase is simply a means of transport between rooms. Brianna reminded me that having rooms to move among — from peace and quiet to meals cooking to music playing — and by way of a staircase — were elements of a home that too easily can be taken for granted.  

Last year, I spoke about partnership and family. What followed was a wildly successful year of creating homeownership. Together, in 2022, we:

  • Completed eight homes for eight families and 22 children, handing over their keys just before Christmas.
  • We received zoning and development approvals for 16 new homes in the town of Eagle. Of these homes, 75 percent will be sold to Eagle County School District educators.
  • We received our largest grant ever to make this all happen: $3 million from Eagle County.
  • We prepared the job site for eight home starts in Gypsum.
  • We celebrated the grand opening of our ReStore at our new location in Gypsum. Sales are up 31 percent over this time last year.
  • We had nearly 9,000 volunteer hours.

This year, I am talking about compassion and action; spirit and sweat. Our board of directors and staff have come together to create, embrace and commit to executing on a BHAG — a big, hairy, audacious goal: Pilot the modular home construction of those 16 new homes in Eagle. In addition, we will continue with our stick-built construction in Gypsum, allowing us, to move from eight home starts to 24.

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Why? Because no one else — no one — is building affordable homes for ownership in our community. By end of year 2024, Habitat will deliver 40 homes plus six recycled homes for 46 families.

Here’s the reality: While homeownership in the Vail Valley has always been very challenging to achieve — we all have a story — it is now impossible for our teachers, chefs, police officers, custodians, firefighters, and medical life savers to stay in our community, to start a family, to be our neighbors.

Eagle County real estate ended 2022 with the highest total dollar volume of all Colorado ski resort communities at $3.6 billion. The average price of a single-family home is $2.4 million.

Affordable home inventory simply is not here. Habitat Vail Valley has cracked the nut: We pull together the partnerships; we pull together the compassion; we pull together the sweat. Habitat does not take a developer fee. We provide the resources to show a family how to qualify for a Habitat home that is sold to them with an affordable mortgage and with monthly payments that do not exceed 30 percent of their gross monthly income.

This is not charity. This is not poverty. This is sustaining an invaluable workforce. We are housing the hospitable and the brave by creating opportunities for those on the front lines of tourism, health care, education and law enforcement to assume an affordable mortgage. We are housing the hopes and dreams of children who deserve safe living environments.

Last month, when it was announced that our 39th president of the United States was entering hospice care at age 98, many of us have been reflecting on why do we universally like this former president so much? How do we relate to a peanut farmer from Georgia? A broker of peace in the Middle East? A one-term president? A Democrat? Founder of a nonprofit focused on human rights? What is it?

It became very clear when I realized that almost every tribute to his life, every mention of his legacy, included a mention of his 39-year affiliation with Habitat for Humanity. We like President Carter because he was a builder. He said, “I have one life and one chance to make it count for something … My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have, to try to make a difference.”

I believe there is a shared yearning to be compassionate among our one human race. If we do not make the most of our one life, we risk the preservation and enhancement of our one community.

As we’ve begun to lean into 2023 and prepare to execute this very audacious goal of 24 home starts, please think about how you will provide your touch of grace.

And when you return home, maybe look at your staircase a bit differently. Where does it take you? Maybe stop and play on it. Don’t take it for granted. Thank you for thinking of Brianna, who moved into her home on Dec. 18 and in time to decorate for Christmas. Thank you for thinking of 24 families who, with your generosity and touches of love, will be on the job sites this year sweating away.

Like President Carter, we can all be builders, of homes and of humanity.

Kristin Kenney Williams is the board president of Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. Earlier this month, the community came together to raise a record-breaking $850,000 for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley and its goal of 24 home starts in 2023. If you couldn’t attend the Carpenters’ Ball but still want to be a difference maker, donate, volunteer and learn more about Habitat Vail Valley at HabitatVailValley.org.

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