Helping Hands: Habitat for Humanity all about homes for Summit County locals
Summit Daily News
This isn’t like television’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Families are not sent away on some luxurious vacation, and do not get to partake in moving any buses to unveil a mini-mansion full of personalized rooms and flat-screen TVs. At Habitat for Humanity, families work alongside volunteers to help build themselves a modest, reasonable home they can afford to pay a mortgage on.
“They’re not getting a free ride,” said Nancy Shockey, executive director of the Summit County Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat for Humanity International is a worldwide, nonprofit organization that looks to provide affordable housing to low-income families of all backgrounds. It was founded in 1976 and has helped build over 400,000 decent, affordable houses around the world to date. Summit County’s affiliate has been in existence for almost 15 years and has built three houses: one in Dillon and two in the Gibson Heights neighborhood in Breckenridge.
“We’re finding a way to build – at the lowest possible cost – houses that are safe, decent and affordable,” Shockey said.
A family must be considered low-income to qualify for a home, meaning they make less than or equal to 70 percent of the area median income. Shockey said applicants are hard-working and credit-worthy, but just don’t make enough money to buy a house.
“Habitat families are people like teachers, nurses and policemen,” she said. “People who have jobs that offer them a steady and reliable income, but not enough income to make Mr. Banker happy.”
Shockey said there are a lot of people in the county who only earn between $9 and $14 an hour and who don’t want to rent for the rest of their lives.
“A lot of them just want to raise their families in Summit County, have a house, and not have to move every year,” she said.
Houses are not given away for free. Adult family members must put in 250 hours each to help build the house and make a nominal down payment. The organization provides the families with a 30-year, no interest mortgage, and recipients must pay for insurance and taxes on the home.
Shockey said each family completes a course on home ownership and personal finance to ensure they can manage their new responsibilities.
“We don’t want people to fail,” she said.
Shockey said time invested in the building and financial aspects of the house helps the homeowner “keep skin in the game.”
“At the same time, they’re learning valuable construction and repair techniques,” she said. “If a screw falls out, they’ll know what to do. That’s something many renters don’t get.”
Funding for projects comes from contributions and donations. Shockey said Habitat asks the community for a “hand-up,” as opposed to a hand-out. Some people or companies make a financial donation, and some make a donation of their time and talents. An electrician might come in and wire the kitchen for free, or a local business might donate building supplies. Large corporations also help out; Whirlpool donates a basic kitchen appliances to each Habitat home, and Valspar helps with the paint. Time spent building a house is dependent on how many donations and volunteers they have.
Shockey said houses are basic – usually three bedrooms and two bathrooms, but built to fit the size of the family.
“We do not want to take someone out of a crowded apartment, help them build a house, and still have the same crowding problem,” she said. “As my father would say, ‘Ain’t nothing fancy.’ But the furnace works, the roof doesn’t leak, and they’re able to stay in the community.”
Shockey said all Habitat homes are built well and fit into existing neighborhoods.
“If you go past those houses today, you cannot tell which one is the Habitat house and which one is a builder’s house,” she said.
Scott Giles received a home in the Gibson Heights neighborhood eight years ago. Now a driver for Colorado Mountain Express, he was working for lift maintenance at Keystone and coaching high school wrestling at the time. He and his wife were renting, and one of the wrestling families suggested he apply for a home. He was approved, and digging for the foundation started only a few months later.
Co-workers from Keystone and friends from the wrestling team showed up to help build. A few volunteers even got jobs with the contractors after builders saw how talented they were.
“It was nice to be able to learn about your house from the ground up,” Giles said. “It was really a nice experience for us.”
Giles, his wife and three children still live in the house.
“It is still quite a blessing,” he said. “We could not afford to live here without being in this house.”
Currently, there are five families in Habitat’s application queue. Shockey said the organization is looking for land suitable for building – and close to public transportation – and will review applicants as soon as a new lot is located. Lots for the last three houses were donated.
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