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George Hammond is recognized by Kris Lewis, executive director and CEO of Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity, right, during the celebration of the completion of the second home built at Micah's View in Fountain on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

FOUNTAIN — As housing prices continue to rise in Colorado Springs, Pikes Peak Habitat for Humanity continues what it’s been doing for 35 years.

Amid children’s laughter and squeals coming from a schoolyard across the street, the 194th family in El Paso County used the same pair of golden scissors as their predecessors on Wednesday to cut a ceremonial ribbon and walk into their new three-bedroom home in Fountain.

“It’s not like a dream come true, it is a dream come true,” said the mom, as she, her husband and their two children embraced the concept of homeownership.

At the dedication, each family receives a Bible and a gold-colored hammer as a reminder of the “labor of love” that built the home, said Kris Lewis, executive director and CEO of the local Habitat office.

The family, who cited safety concerns as the reason they didn’t want to be identified, had lived in a Section 8 apartment and said they thought owning their own home was impossible.

Habitat provides “one of the few paths to homeownership” for low-income residents in the region, said Steve Posey, community development and Housing and Urban Development program manager for the city of Colorado Springs, in an email.

Colorado Springs supplies HUD funding to Habitat through the HOME Investment Partnership program, he added.

Habitat for Humanity works in 70 countries, using volunteers to build, rehab and repair houses for low-income families, who also help pound nails, paint and contribute other sweat equity on the developing projects that will change their lives.

The family was selected in April 2020, said Janet Risley, Habitat’s director of homeowner services, but the COVID pandemic stalled construction.

Each adult beneficiary donates 200 hours to the project, she said, and must take training in budgeting, credit counseling, estate planning and other financial matters.

The cost of building a Habitat home has increased from $160,000 in January 2020, before the pandemic, to $240,000 today, Lewis said.

The sales price of the property is based on the appraised value, and the affordable mortgage payment is capped at 30% of the household’s gross monthly income at the time of sale, according to Habitat officials.

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The Pikes Peak Association of Realtors reported an average sales price in the region of $501,138 in July, slightly below June’s record of $502,961. The area’s median, or midpoint of sales prices, was $450,000 in July.

New this year for local Habitat projects is a 90-year deed restriction, so if the original family sells the home, it must go to a buyer who earns 30% to 100% of the area median income, Lewis said.

Retaining existing affordable housing is a concern countywide, Lewis said.

Previously, Habitat had a shared equity policy in which Habitat would receive a greater portion of the proceeds of a sale, Lewis said.

Homeowners usually sell if they need to relocate for a job or they’ve outgrown the home, she said.

This is the second new home the organization has completed in Fountain this year. A third home on the same large lot also is planned, and five more lots are slated for Habitat homes but have not yet broken ground, Lewis said.

The corner lot site in the middle of town has been named "Micah's View," in honor of a dedicated Habitat volunteer, Micah Tice, an Air Force Academy Preparatory School Cadet candidate who died unexpectedly in 2018 while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

Fountain also has the organization’s Country Living development, a 34-lot neighborhood that began construction in 2012 and now is built out.

The Ridge at Sand Creek in Colorado Springs is another large-scale project underway. Thirty of the development's 90 lots are earmarked to be Habitat homes, Lewis said, to create a diverse neighborhood.

Without the land being donated by a Colorado Springs nonprofit, Love in Action, the homes wouldn’t be possible, she said.

With an annual operating budget of about $5 million, Habitat averages seven to eight houses a year in El Paso County, Lewis said, but had to scale back to five because of the pandemic and decreased number of volunteers allowed on building sites, Lewis said.

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With additional volunteers and financial donations, the organization could ramp up to 20 a year, she said.

For more information, go to https://pikespeakhabitat.org.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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