Homes for the Holidays

Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley celebrated a home for the holidays on Sunday, December 18 — a freezing afternoon that did nothing to cool the spirits of the eight families readying to move into their new homes.

“Our hearts are warmed, being here tonight, welcoming partner families home,” said John Welaj, Habitat Vail Valley’s executive director. “This neighborhood included our 100th home. As we celebrate these homeowners, we look to the future. Next year, we will build 24 homes — triple the annual average.”

Many of the families spoke, sharing how their new homes will change their lives — providing stability, affordability and, most of all, a safe place. These eight homeowners not only helped build their own homes, they helped build their neighbors’ homes, creating a strong sense of community and partnership from the start.

It’s not an easy process to become a Habitat homeowner. They attend submit an in-depth application, have home visits, attend workshops. Every adult in each family volunteers for 250 hours, providing “sweat equity” towards their home. It’s not a hardship — it helps them be better prepared to own a home

“We are truly pleased to be a part of the Habitat program. We are pleased with the home construction responsibilities and tasks that were given to me and my son, which are things that can help us now in the future,” said one homeowner.

Many of these homeowners had lived in unsafe or overcrowded situations. Sometimes there was a lack of indoor plumbing or heat; sometimes entire families had to share one room. It’s hard to thrive when home doesn’t feel safe.

Just as these families rely on Habitat for a housing solution, the community relies on the strengths of these families: An Avon police officer, a school district employee, a social worker are the newest members of the Stratton Flats’ neighborhood. These jobs are vital to protecting and enhancing our community. Essential employees deserve to be able to deepen their roots here and share in the many benefits of homeownership — from wealth building to better physical and mental health to having more time to spend with their families. And not many teachers, law enforcement officers or mid-level managers can afford the $1+ million price tag of a home.

“These families are the fabric of our community. It’s dismaying that people have had such fraught living situations. Our community would look very different without these hardworking locals. While there’s still much work to be done, we are pleased to be part of the families journeys towards affordable homeownership,” said Elyse Howard, director of development.

A house is more than a home

“Building my Habitat house means so much to my family and I. It is not just going to be a house but a place we call home. It means having a stable roof over our heads and something that will be permanent. For my daughter, it means having her own room, a space she can make her own and be creative with it. For myself, it means accomplishing a long-time dream, a dream that turned into a reality. I am so grateful to Habitat for giving my daughter and me the opportunity to own our home,” shared one family.

As Habitat Vail Valley celebrates the newest members of the Habitat family, they look to the future to triple the number of housing starts in 2023. They will pilot a 16-unit modular housing development at Third Street in Eagle — 75% of which are for Eagle County School District employees. In addition, eight more homes will be built at Gypsum’s Stratton Flats.

Learn more about Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley at