by Rick Langenberg:
With the government push for workforce housing still up in the air, Habitat for Humanity of Teller County has become the prime entity for assisting area families in search of an affordable dwelling.
That theme was apparent last week during another ceremonial ground-breaking for the second phase of a major Habitat initiative to assist several local families in Woodland Park. A group of Habitat members, city officials and civic leaders took turns shoveling dirt for the latest $450,000 town home development in the Forest Edge neighborhood, consisting of three more proposed units, considered Phase II of the Las Casas project. The site contractor for the new project is Paul Summeril of Home Pro Services in Woodland Park, a past Habitat recipient himself. “I have lived in a tent trailer with my trailer of five and have personally received help to own a new home. I want to give back my building experience back to do the same for other families,” said Summeril.
The three-bedroom homes, encompassing about 1,500 square-feet each, will be occupied by local families and individuals who work in the area. For example, one of the new home owners will be Shaun and Amy Tongate, who run a hair salon in the Wal-Mart shopping center
Altogether, the Teller Habitat group has constructed 24 homes since 2000. The Las Casas effort, which has already resulted in the construction of three current homes, is the most ambitious project in Woodland Park. It features attractive Southwestern-style architecture and each development has a joint barbecue and picnic area. And while local leaders have mulled over various studies and ways to spearhead more affordable or workforce housing projects, the Habitat group has become the only real group that has made these efforts happen locally. The Teller Habitat group is affiliated with the Habitat for Humanity International, established to build safe, decent homes for qualified families and to assist them with the skills to become successful homeowners.
“We are pleased we are able to address what we feel is a pressing need,” said Rick Shafer, executive director of the Teller Habitat for Humanity group. Shafer noted that Habitat is one of 70 charities in the county, but it is the only group “dedicated to providing affordable housing.” He believes the Habitat group has succeeded in bring more attention to a growing problem that may soon reach a crisis stage in certain parts of the county, according to various housing studies.
Shafer complimented the Woodland Park city officials and leaders for paving the way for more Habitat projects through their multi-tier tap fee policies and other new incentives for these types of dwellings. He cited much support among the current cadre of WP leaders.
According to Shafer, the Habitat program allows working families a chance to live and own their own home in Woodland Park and to establish roots. Otherwise, families couldn’t even think of affording their own home in Woodland, unless they receive a major loan or take a big financial risk.
With the Habitat program, qualifying families or individuals don’t have to pay for a down payment through performing a certain amount of “sweat equity,” involved in the construction of their home. This usually involves between 300 and 400 hours per family.
Under the program, the Habitat owners are then able to obtain very affordable monthly mortgage payments. Restrictions, though, do exist, if they seek to sell the home within a certain period.
According to Shafer, the next Habitat project may occur in the Sherwood Forest area. For more information, about the group’s activities, visit www.tellerhabitat.org.