Home Education Teachers from Colorado who need housing are turning to Habitat for Humanity

Teachers from Colorado who need housing are turning to Habitat for Humanity

The Colorado Sun

PLASTER – Brenda Saseda has lived all her life in Eagle County, but with housing prices becoming unattainable and a daughter to take care of, a place she considers her home once left her homeless.

Three years ago, Saseda from Gypsum went to an asylum, figuring out how to create a future after becoming a single mother. She is now in her own house with bedrooms for her and her daughter, a balcony where they dine together on warm spring days, and a front door overlooking the Savach ridge. in the distance.

That’s all the 29-year-old Saseda wanted for her and her 6-year-old daughter Leilani Cardenas – and all that was left out of her focus in the county, where the average sale price is about $ 2 million.

“It’s like a sense of detention,” Saseda said, adding, “you’re just starting to be questioned a lot.”

Neighbor, administrator of the Eagle Early Childhood School Early Childhood Division, became the owner of the house in December after Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley selected her to receive one of 12 homes recently built on land donated in 2018 by the school district.

This donation strengthened the partnership that helped the local Habitat for Humanity focus on building affordable permanent housing for educators, police, health workers and other members of the county’s workforce living in fragile averages. They receive a salary that once allowed them to live in the society where they work and have stability. But now that mountain resort towns are sagging under the weight of the housing crisis with high housing prices and low stocks, their profits are no longer going far enough. And yet, in many cases, they still earn too much money to qualify for assistance from government agencies or nonprofits.

“They found themselves in this suspended state,” said April-Don Nadsen, executive director of Summit Habitat for Humanity, which is also launching a project to connect teachers and other community workers with affordable housing in Summit and Park counties.

“This is the source of our community’s life, and we need to find solutions to accommodate these people,” Nadsen said.

Brenda Suseda and her daughter Leilani Cardenas at their home in Plaster on Monday, April 18, 2022 (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

Habitat for Humanity organizations in the highlands have tried to develop their own solutions, investing more time and resources in teachers and other professionals who are desperately looking for permanent homes, which Nadsen called “uncharted territory” for a nonprofit. An organization that builds homes for low-income families in 45 communities across Colorado, never imagined educators and police officers, she said.

Habitat for humanity has traditionally built homes available to families earning between 35% and 80% of the average income in the area. In Eagle County, 80% of the average income of a family of four is about $ 70,000 a year, said Elise Howard, director of development for Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley.

Howard has seen housing once available to government officials, including teachers, eroded in Eagle County over the past decade and a half, especially as potential homeowners have had to start competing with buyers from across the state, country and the world. More than half of real estate deals in the past two years have been made with buyers from abroad, Howard said. She finds it “deeply disturbing” that teachers in her public schools cannot always live in the place where they teach.

“I want to live in a place, and I want my kids to be educated in schools where teachers can live where they work,” Howard said. “They are so important and they are such an important part of the fabric of our community.”

Elise Howard, Director of Development Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley, April 18, 2022 in Plaster. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

In the fall of 2021, Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley completed a dozen homes in the neighborhood on the outskirts of Red Hill Elementary School in Plaster. This is one small step towards opening more housing at a time when the county is facing a significant shortage. An assessment of housing needs in the Eagle River Valley in Eagle County in 2018 determined that by 2025 this area is short of 5,900 units. The pandemic has exacerbated the shortage, Howard said.

“It won’t solve the whole problem,” she said, “but we have 12 more and we’ll keep going.”

The organization now has ambitions to build a completely separate neighborhood of 16 modular homes in Eagle, on another piece of land donated by the Eagle County School District. Most of these homes will be designed for district staff, especially teachers who have taught in the district for three to five years. Realizing that in the county housing market the salaries of teachers are not high enough, Habitat of Humanity Vail Valley will build homes for teachers, even if their income is above the usual threshold of a nonprofit to qualify for assistance.

The non-profit organization expects to complete the construction of the district by early 2024 and hopes that together with the school district it will give more experienced teachers the opportunity to stay both in school and in society.

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley in partnership with the Eagle County School District has built a neighborhood with affordable housing, in part for district staff. The nonprofit and school district are starting to create a second neighborhood in hopes of accommodating teachers with three to five years of classroom experience. (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

“They’re so critical of work that they do that when they leave the community, it’s a loss for the school district, it’s a loss for the community’s children, it’s a loss for everyone,” said Emily Payton, director of special projects for nonprofits.

The future neighborhood is part of a broader district effort to provide affordable housing for staff, said Matthew Miano, the district’s chief communications officer. The district has also launched a project in Edwards that will create 37 units – including one-, two- and three-bedroom – that the district will own and lease to staff.

“Hope to Exist”

The neighbor, the owner of Habitat House in Plaster, doesn’t know how she would have managed to stay in Eagle County without the help of a nonprofit. Before moving, she and her daughter rented a one-room apartment in Avon for almost $ 1,300 a month. They raised $ 4,000, which she brought home each month, and she often worried about rent increases.

Her new home, in the construction of which she helped, gave her such stability that will help keep Leilani safe and calm her, especially after dealing with depression.

The Habitat House “gave me hope of existence as a whole,” she said.

Affordable housing in Summit and Park counties was just as hard to find, said Nadsen of the Summit Habitat for Humanity.

Brenda Suseda and her daughter Leilani Cardenas at their home in Plaster on Monday, April 18, 2022 (Hugh Carey, The Colorado Sun)

“It’s always been stunning, but COVID has really brought us to a place never before predicted,” Knudsen said. “It’s outrageous not only how prices have changed, but simply the lack of housing stock is impressive.”

She added that as of last week in Park County there were only 54 homes for sale, about the size of Delaware.

Summit Habitat for Humanity is in the early stages of a project in Fairplay in Park County, which is building eight single-family modular blocks of about 1,400 square feet, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. The homes, which will be limited and limited to $ 250,000, will occupy about half an acre of land donated to the organization by Park County Commissioners.

The development, which the organization aims to complete by the end of 2024, is adjacent to the South Park schools, and its homes will be available to anyone who has a full-time job in Park County. The nonprofit prioritizes teachers, law enforcement, emergency services and municipal employees, Nadsen said, noting that most of these workers earn 60-70% of the average income in the area.

According to her, they are classified as tenants because their income is “too low for viable housing sustainability”.

Kirsten Krauss, a second-grade teacher at Edith Teter Elementary School in Fairplay, is one of two homeowners the Summit Habitat for Humanity has so far chosen to move to inception.

The 42-year-old Kraus spent most of her time as a resident of Alma, holding her breath, wondering each year whether her landlords would raise rents. After the owners of the house, which she had previously rented for $ 1,100 a month, decided to sell it about a year and a half ago, she was lucky and was able to move to an affordable neighborhood for the same price. Her lease began in December 2020. A year later, her rent jumped to $ 1,481.

Kraus was able to make ends meet with a salary of nearly $ 46,000 and alimony she receives from her ex-husband to support their three teenagers. But she is stuck in the workforce because she earns too much money on most forms of state aid, and still not enough money to afford her home in the high countries.

“Being able to own and just know you’re safe was a great attraction of the Habitat house,” Kraus said.

The Summit Habitat for Humanity has also committed to building 15 homes in Summit County over the next five years to be directed to the local workforce, including educators. Similar housing efforts are underway in Pitkin County, where Habitat for Humanity Roaring Fork Valley is collaborating with Roaring Fork County and Schools build 27 houses behind Basalt High School in Basalt.

“I think every community really needs to see red flags when their middle class is struggling or when their middle class is slowly starting to lose ground,” Nadsen said. “I think it really affects all the socio-economic conditions. This means that if the middle is slippery, then those who looked in the middle also lag behind.

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