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Housing lotteries show valley teachers lesson in persistence

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS Students could learn a lesson about perseverance and not giving up hope from two teachers in the Roaring Fork Valley.One of them, Tom Grant, is scheduled to close on a new Glenwood Springs home today, despite finishing last in the recent affordable housing lottery for the unit.”Even though I was a loser, I’m a winner,” he said.Another, Sabrina Whitehouse, also has bought a new home under the program, winning a second city lottery after her failure in the process last year.”I’ve been trying to buy a house for about six years now, and I couldn’t, other than this. This has been great,” Whitehouse said.

Glenwood Springs officials are nearly as happy as Whitehouse and Grant that two teachers were among the four families that got to buy four townhomes recently made available by the city. The city created the program in hopes of helping essential, middle-class workers in town who otherwise stood little chance of being able to afford a home locally.Patrick McKibben, an Alpine Bank employee, also was able to buy a home. Johnny and Ruth Gonzalez, who own a counseling service, are scheduled to close on their unit Friday.The city requires housing developers to sell 15 percent of their units below market rates or contribute an equivalent amount into the city’s affordable housing fund. It previously has made two other units available through the program. In March, it held a lottery for the four units. Two are in the Overlin Park subdivision near downtown and the others are in the Timber Creek subdivision on Donegan Road.Applicants could enter lotteries for more than one home. All together, 13 competed in the four lotteriesWhitehouse bought one of the two-bedroom townhomes on Donegan Road for just $178,526.The opportunity came as good news not only to the fifth-grade teacher at Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood but also to her principal, Howard Jay. He constantly faces the challenge of hiring and retaining teachers in an expensive housing market.”She’s a wonderful teacher, so to have that happen to her and fall into place is great,” Jay said. “It just allows me a lot more confidence that she’s going to stay here.””I would have stayed regardless, but it definitely helped,” said Whitehouse, who has taught at the school for several years.

“I know a lot of the newer teachers, it’s difficult for them” to buy a home, she said.Grant has taught woodworking at Glenwood Springs High School for 14 years. After a divorce several years ago, he has been renting in Basalt, where he is raising his daughter. Buying a house had seemed out of the question.It didn’t look promising even after the lottery. He came in fifth in the lottery for a three-bedroom, $245,368 townhome in Overlin Park. The Gonzalezes had won the lottery for that home. But they also had come in second for another three-bedroom unit that was priced at just $200,842 because it had stricter income limits. The winner of the lottery for that home was no longer employed in town and became ineligible to buy it, so the Gonzalezes opted to buy it instead.The runner-up family for the more expensive home decided it couldn’t make the mortgage payment. The third-placed finisher was McKibben, who bowed out because he also won the drawing for one of the smaller, less expensive Donegan Road homes.The fourth family evaluated the opportunity “and for personal reasons just decided that it wasn’t the right house for them,” said Kathryn Grosscup, program assistant with the Garfield County Housing Authority, which helps administer Glenwood’s program.That left Grant.

“This was kind of a lifesaver,” said Grant, who worried about the possibility of rising rent where he lives now.Grosscup said Grant’s experience shows the importance of not giving up when applying for the city’s housing lotteries. “It also shows that home buying is a very unique process, and the financing is unique for each family and the things that people like are unique for each family,” she said.Jill Peterson, a city planner, noted that, in some cases, people who end up winning a lottery haven’t even had a chance to visit the home and decide if they’d like it.Peterson is happy over how the housing program is working out.”I think we’re still reaching our target, which is the workers that are supportive of this community. That’s exactly what we’re after,” said Peterson. “This looks to be very successful, I think.”With more Glenwood teachers living even farther downvalley, Jay sees the housing program as one way to help some of them teach and live in the same town.”They add a lot to the community when they live here, by filling in places where we need volunteers,” he said.


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