Our community’s future leaders need affordable homes

My coworker shared what’s becoming a common story: A beloved community member, and his wife, packed their condo and moved away. He was one of those people who made a difference: he was a teacher, as was his wife; coached at a local gym; helped run camps for young kids and exuded positivity and excitement. He had great energy and made everyone around him smile.volunteer

Unfortunately, building a life here on teacher salaries with a toddler proved impossible. The condo they rented was perfect when it was just two of them; but as the family expanded, they wanted stability and space. With 30 homes listed in Eagle with the average price of $1.52M*(and prices only exceedingly more the further up valley one looks), and the opportunity to buy affordably and build equity elsewhere, the choice was obvious.

This anecdote is not uncommon and leads to the question I have been asking myself frequently.Who’s next? State leaders, local organizations and local businesses are looking to the nextleaders. Who’s next to take over director-level roles? It’s not that we don’t have a talented workforce, it’s that younger, middle managers are leaving Eagle County at rates higher than other age groups.

I presented a workshop on innovative homeownership solutions at the Colorado Municipal League recently. Everyone, from small town leaders to large city managers, is searching forinnovative homeownership solutions, even as we remain thousands of units away from having enough homes for our workforce.

Because of this dearth of affordable homeownership opportunities, we are unable to keep people in our community. As 30 year olds try to settle into their careers, they are stymied. While there is space for them to learn and grow at their jobs, there isn’t the space for them to settle and thrive, to find a mate, to buy a home, to have a place of their own.

We have to figure this out for our community. Leaders are retiring and moving on, opening career opportunities that could solidify and build a career. But who’s here to accept the next step? The lack of housing negatively affects the job market two times: As people move, it’s impossible to bring in new recruits in large part because of the lack of housing. Valued employees are leaving because affordable homeownership is near impossible.

Owning a home feels further out of reach than it did a few years ago. That’s where Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley comes into play. We are building more homes and plan to continue to partner to accelerate the rate we build. Applications for the next round of eight homes are open. Over the past years, we have had an enormous uptick in the number of applications but we want to hear from anyone who needs a home.

Owning a home builds wealth, provides stability, transforms lives, improves health and educational outcomes, and benefits our communities. People who own their homes have stronger ties to the neighborhood and community.

Habitat homeowners are our community builders. We have teachers, law enforcement officers, behavioral health therapists and early childhood educators in the homes they helped build and pay for each month. Homeowners have gone back to college to advance their careers. There are seemingly small things that make a huge impact: a staircase; an in-home washer and dryer; a fenced backyard and neighbors who become like family.

Applications are open for the next round of Habitat homes. We want future homeowners to apply, to reach out, to become part of the Habitat family.

Who’s next? Eagle County School District, Eagle County, local police and fire departments allneed employees. Together, we can be a part of the solution to create a healthier local housing continuum.  

* July 12, Slifer.net website