Summit County, a non-profit organization, is building affordable housing for middle-class residents – Park District

The town of Fairplay in rural Park County is a breakthrough in a staff housing project to help local police, firefighters and teachers find affordable homes to buy.

April-Dawn Knudsen, executive director of the Summit Habitat for Humanity, said helping these people find housing was not traditional for her nonprofit because some people think people can find housing on their own.

“When the Habitats for Humanity began their mission, I don’t think they would ever imagine a world where they would be accommodated for teachers,” Knudsen said.

Although Knudsen’s organization has historically focused on the ski communities in Summit County, it is turning its attention right next to Park County, which has become home to an increasing number of people who come to work looking for cheaper housing.

However, the houses planned for the new Fairplay project are only available to applicants who work at least 32 hours a week in Park County, Knudsen said, with priority given to local educators, law enforcement agencies, paramedics and local government officials.

It is another sign of the increasingly threatening housing situation in the high country. The total amount of money spent annually on real estate in Colorado’s most popular mountain districts – including the Summit – has doubled in less than a decade.

In an effort to keep more rental options open to the local workforce, several mountain towns and districts have temporarily stopped issuing short-term rental licenses. The Breckenridge-based shuttle company even bought a historic hotel in downtown Fairplay to turn it into staff accommodation.

The Summit Habitat project in Fairplay will push eight family-run modular homes into donated half-acre land next to the city center. Knudsen said the price of the home would be limited to $ 250,000 and would be available to applicants who made 80 percent of Park County County’s median income or less. She said that local teachers, for example, often earn only 50 percent of median income.

Meanwhile, the lowest-income Park County residents often live in caravans, shelters, and other substandard housing on small plots of cheap private land away from utilities or services.

“While we think of these people as middle class, they are really struggling and have no access to root in these communities,” she said.

The first two houses the Summit Habitat is building in Park County should be ready for residents in the first quarter of 2023, Knudsen said, with residents moving into all eight homes by the end of 2024.

“If we can raise and strengthen the center [class]we are able to strengthen the community as a whole, “she said. “Then we’re able to reach out below and support people who go without.”

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