Affordable Homeownership Is a Community Builder 

I think it’s easy to articulate what homeownership means to a person and how it changes a family’s trajectory. There’s clear evidence that living in a safe, affordable home creates concentric circles of positive outcomes: financial security, education, physical and behavioral health.  

What is becoming more evident is the positive impacts affordable homeownership has on the entire community; the fact that an affordable home has a ripple effect beyond just the homeowner. Just as a home affects the family, affordable homes affect the health, vibrancy and stability of our community.   

When a family puts down roots, they are more involved. Without a varied population, we as a community, lose out. Imagine calling 911 and not having EMTs arrive or trying to run a school, educate young people, without qualified teachers. What worries me is that we are getting closer to the precipice where people who help make our community work can’t live here.   

Jackson, Wyoming, is experiencing this in a very real way right now — it feels like a glimpse into Eagle County’s future.  On June 7, a large section of Teton Pass washed away, cutting off Jackson from much of its critical work force just as the summer tourist season heated up. Victor and Driggs, Idaho, where homeownership is more affordable, have long been bedroom communities to Jackson. The workers who make up the critical infrastructure of the Jackson Hole resort and town of Jackson — hotel and restaurant workers, fire, police and EMTs have built their lives on the other side of Teton Pass.  On June 7 what was once a very common 30-minute commute became a 2+ hour drive each way.   

Instantly understanding the implications, I read the impact of this road closure from an economic impact perspective, what Jackson was doing to get critical workers into town. One article in particular stuck with me, first the headline “Teton Pass collapse also catastrophic for Jackson’s out-of-town work force.” It outlined how employers were struggling to secure temporary housing for employees but noted that “many of the employees have families, pets and homes that require attention.” Of course they do. They have built their own community on the other side of Teton Pass. What happens when Vail Pass or Glenwood Canyon close for an extended period of time — how will our community work? 

We need affordable homeownership here in Eagle County. We need to build a housing continuum that supports economic and social mobility so that people can live where they work. What good is a place if the only people in are just visiting? Local character is a big part of what makes a place special. Without homeownership opportunities we will lose that. We need to strengthen this critical infrastructure for the good of the whole. 

Habitat Vail Valley is working on solutions. On Monday, July 8, the next round of Habitat applications open. We invite everyone to reach out, apply and talk to Habitat Vail Valley. While we work to help people earning up to 80% of the area median income (up to $104,900 for a family of four), we want to talk to everyone who has questions and is trying to own a home.   

We need to be thoughtful about how, where and what we build because it will make a difference. The homes will help retain community and keep people here — building the fabric of Eagle County. 

Elyse Howard is the director of development at Habitat for Humanity Vail Valley. If you want to learn more about our affordable home building aspirations and how we work to build community, reach out.