021220-cr-habitat

From left: Megan Dillinger, Keith Meier and Susan Cummings, standing in the lot where the Trailhead Townhomes will be built. Not pictured: Karen Fay, the fourth member of the Habitat team.

With 18 townhomes planned in Woodland Park and a proposal to build single-family homes on 16 lots in Victor, Teller County Habitat for Humanity is on neighborhood roll.

In Woodland Park, Trailhead Townhomes is scheduled to be built on an acre and a half near the corner of Valley View and North Colorado 67, behind the Habitat offices.

The homes are two-story, two or three bedrooms and are targeted for those who earn from 60 to 80% of the Average Median Income, or between $40,000 and $70,000, depending on how many are in the family.

In Victor, the proposal, if accepted, would include single-family homes, duplexes and row houses.

With its four-person team led by Keith Meier as executive director, Habitat intends to make a dent in the shortage of workforce housing in Teller County.

“We’re trying to target city workers, teachers, first responders, small business owners, people who are getting pushed out of Woodland Park because they can’t afford housing,” said Megan Dillinger, resource development coordinator. “That’s a departure from what people traditionally view Habitat as.”

While the nonprofit organization owns several lots in Cripple Creek, there are no plans to start building. “We’re waiting for the city to improve the infrastructure, water and sewer,” Meier said, adding that the improvements are the result of the recent housing study done for southern Teller County. “We’re looking at opportunities in Cripple Creek.”

The projects reflect Habitat’s new philosophy under Meier’s direction. “We don’t just build houses, we build neighborhoods,” he said. “We’re not looking to build a house here, a house there, but looking for opportunities to build neighborhoods to help rebuild communities.”

In the drive to build neighborhoods, Teller’s County Habitat aligns with that of the state’s organization. “The state is paying attention to what we’re doing because they’re interested in doing the same thing,” Meier said. “Habitat nationwide is realizing that if they build neighborhoods they’d have a bigger impact on attaining affordable housing.”

The change in direction includes hiring a millennial, Woodland Park native Dillinger, who is back in her hometown after graduating from Xavier University in Ohio with a degree in international business and writing. Dillinger was hired on at Habitat after spending a year in Belize with a Jesuit volunteer corps. “It’s Peace Corps-esque but associated with the Jesuits and the Catholic Church,” she said.

The job in Woodland Park fits her goal of being part of making a difference in the lives of people, whether in Belize or Teller County. “It’s great to have a job in my community; it’s important to me to give in an impactful way,” she said.

As resource development coordinator, Dillinger writes grants and plans events such as Vino & Notes, planned for Aug. 1. “In the past, the fundraiser for Habitat has been focused on the wine but we want to have a bigger emphasis on the music,” she said.

The fundraiser will be in Memorial Park with Tiny Barge and the Big Chill as the headline band.

In addition to Dillinger and Meier, an architect with 35 years of experience building homes and businesses in the Pikes Peak Region, the staff includes Susan Cummings and Karen Fay.

“I took the job because I want to make an impact through change in the whole direction of Habitat,” Meier said, who was hired by the board in July. “When I first came in I talked about rebuilding the culture; we should all be having fun, should be passionate about it and the job should be rewarding.”

Asked about future plans, Meier smiled. “We’re brainstorming,” he said.

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