Dear Editor,

We appreciate the opportunity to give an update on our progress on the Park Street location in Lyons and to clarify some misconceptions in regards to our program. Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley is completing its first round of family qualifications for the homes that will be built on Park Street. Currently two families are moving through that qualification process as they meet Habitat’s standards for

successful homeownership. They are Lyons residents that were impacted by the flood. A second qualification round is scheduled to begin on March 25.

As we communicated in a recent letter to Lyons residents, Habitat does not give away homes. We work in partnership with the family and the community to build a home that is sold at cost to the homeowner and Habitat provides a mortgage originated at 30% of the homeowner’s income. Completion of the home is just the start of the relationship. To that end we look for several indicators of future success in this partnership, which is our primary concern. 

Many know that we serve people earning 30 to 60% of the area median income. That equates to $28,440 to $56,880 for a family of four.  At this income range, we know families struggle to get a mortgage at a traditional financing institution. 

We also expect potential homeowners to have a debt load that does not exceed 43% of income.  That equates to total debt (car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.) divided by regular income.  We also pull a credit report (which is provided to the family upon request) to see if there is a history of regular payment on their outstanding debt. Debt is the most common reason that applicants are not accepted. 
Habitat combines donor contributions and current homeowner payments to fund the construction of new homes. Thus, the success of our homeowners in paying their mortgages allows Habitat to continue building homes in the communities we serve. If a homeowner is already debt burdened, adding a mortgage payment may create additional strain for the family and ultimately cause them to default on their loans or the mortgage. 

To this end, homeowner qualification is a step in our process we handle with great attention. Every individual or family that is not accepted into the program receives a letter clearly explaining the reasons they do not qualify. Obviously this information cannot be made public for privacy reasons. We encourage applicants to sit down with us to understand what is needed to improve their application and direct them to resources in the community to help them address these specific areas. Habitat has provided this information and met with those interested in further discussion. 

We encourage every family to address the issues identified in their original application and then apply again for a Habitat home. A good portion of the families who have recently been selected for Habitat homes in Longmont were applying for the second or even third time. They took advantage of the recommended resources and addressed the issues identified. 

We also wanted to make a few comments about our ReStore. For those that do not know, the ReStore is Habitat’s home improvement outlet selling gently used items to the public. Proceeds from the store help Habitat build homes in the St. Vrain Valley.  After the flood, the ReStore offered $50 vouchers to those who provided a FEMA letter. Twenty-one people were served in this way. While the mission of the Restore does not directly serve flood recovery, we felt this was a good faith effort to bring some relief to those who were impacted by the flood. 

The ReStore operates under the same stewardship principle as our homeownership side. People donate items to our Restore and our team prices items to bring a fair return to our mission. On occasion we are blessed with antiques and other high end items. We do not negotiate prices, but if an item stays on the floor too long it is discounted on a regular schedule. If someone believes the item is too expensive, they can always return the following week to see if it is still available at a lower price or choose a lower priced item. We also offer discounts to Veterans and Seniors. 

Since shortly after the flood, St. Vrain Habitat has been working with the Lyons community to facilitate repairs and rebuild homes. We have been blessed with many volunteers from Lyons that made this a reality. To date we have completed seven ReBuild projects in Lyons. We are currently finishing our last repair project to bring another resident home to Lyons.

Habitat believes that homeownership is only one solution to the need for replacement housing in Lyons and that several types of housing are required to meet the needs of a diverse population. To that end, we hope to build a coalition of churches, businesses and individuals to advocate for a broader range of solutions. While our immediate focus is the completion of the Park Street project we strongly advocate for the long-term development of affordable rental housing. 

From our founding, Habitat for Humanity has always been about hope. As we build homes, we build strength, stability and self-reliance in our families and in the communities we serve. Every family has a path before them and sometime that path leads to Habitat’s door. We encourage the families who did not qualify in this round to address the issues on their application and reapply to the program when they are ready. 

David Emerson
Executive Director
Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley

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