Valley’s Voice: The housing continuum is critical for our community to thrive

The Habitat team has been together going on 18 years – we’ve lived in the valley even longer. Our team is the very picture of how a successful housing continuum can foster career and relationship growth. When I first got to town, I lived with roommates in a condo, a few years later, my then boyfriend and I rented a place together. Soon after we got engaged, we bought a small condo, selling that to buy a duplex – the home we still live in with our two sons. I know I amlucky because each opportunity helped us ‘move up.’ I am not sure that is possible any more without serious financial assistance.

People need the opportunity to move through the housing continuum as they move through the stages and phases of life. Homeownership is key. Not only does it root people here in our community, but when a renter can move into homeownership it frees up a rental unit for a new worker. If there is not the opportunity for mobility, we will never meet the housing demands of our workforce. We will continue to lose valued community members as they move out of town to purchase a home in a place where prices are more realistic.

As a community, we are making strides to increase housing opportunities. There are many new projects but I can’t help but notice that it’s very rental heavy. I get it – for a free market developer, the math while still challenging, can work and it’s possible to make these rental projects pencil.  There is more funding available to finance a rental project. But at what cost?

We have limited resources — water, land, money. We must be very thoughtful as a community about how we use these limited resources as we increase access to housing. Although there are more funding sources to build rentals, the cost per unit is the same to build rentals or homeownership. Being able to own a home helps people settle down and ‘grow up’ here. As a community we need to prioritize homeownership; it has a stronger benefit for families and the community.

Homeownership helps increase generational wealth and it does so much more: A safe, affordable home positively impacts families. Children who have a safe and stable home do better in school, have improved mental health, fewer physical and behavioral health problems and more self-assured parents. As a matter of fact, 90% of Habitat homeowners noted improvements in their family’s health since moving into their Habitat home.

Habitat believes in the housing continuum and is focused on building homeownership opportunities. It is a heavy lift. In the past 11 years, homes sales under $500k have decreased 96% (using data through September), according to Land Title.

In October, the median home sale price in Eagle County was $1.4M according to Land Title.  A prospective buyer would need a salary of $350,000 to afford a home at the median price. Yet median household income in Eagle County is $91,338.

Habitat’s model puts homeownership within reach for families at 35 to 80% of the area median income – that is between $39,159 to $89,450 for a family of four. As rental developments crop up around the valley, we need to be thoughtful as a community to look at creative solutions to provide more homeownership opportunities for our workforce.

Habitat is dedicated to building innovative solutions to create incremental housing: stick-built homes, modular developments. partnering with other nonprofits, builders and contractors. We’re committed to building 46 homeownership opportunities in a three-year period. As partnerships expand, so can our building efforts.

I want all of us to focus our energy on the solutions to help establish roots and strengthen the housing continuum – thereby strengthening our community. Now is the time for action.

Elyse Howard is the director of development at Habitat Vail Valley where she advocates for increased access to affordable housing. Learn more at