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#25ReasonsWeBuild: To stay in the community where we built our family

Like all Habitat homeowners, Stephanie and Ignacio literally helped build their home. Together they contributed hundreds of hours of sweat equity alongside volunteers and their fellow Wonderland Creek homeowners. For Ignacio, the process was challenging – especially balancing sweat equity requirements with his full-time job – but it was well worth it.

When Stephanie and Ignacio first heard about Flatirons Habitat for Humanity, they were living in a 2-bedroom Boulder Housing Partners (BHP) rental. Their property manager, whose wife was a Habitat homeowner in Boulder, encouraged the couple to apply for Flatirons Habitat’s homeownership program. Stephanie and Ignacio weren’t sure that they would qualify or be selected, but the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. They realized that affordable homeownership might be the only way to put down roots for their family in the city where they had built their life.

Since graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder at the height of the recession, the young couple had bounced from apartment to apartment in Boulder and surrounding towns as they tried to find some balance between safety, affordability, and stability for their growing family. Finding BHP housing was a definite improvement: Ignacio was closer to his job at Whole Foods, and their children were only a half-mile from their elementary school.

But the fix was temporary. Stephanie and Ignacio had to reapply for their BHP lease each year and worried that with any slight increase in income, they would be bumped out of their rental and forced to leave their community.

“If we weren’t in our BHP place, we would be paying almost 75 percent of our income to stay in Boulder,” said Stephanie. “If we moved, we would have more commuting costs and the kids would have to switch schools. It would basically uproot our lives.”

Hoping that Habitat could be their solution, Stephanie and Ignacio attended a homeowner orientation at the community center. Stephanie remembers a completely packed room, with every seat filled and additional applicants standing at the back of the room. She wasn’t overly optimistic about her family’s prospects. But she and Ignacio continued through the application process, and in the end were selected as homeowners.

In July 2018, after working through sweat equity and homeowner education requirements, Stephanie and Ignacio received the keys to a place they could call their own. For Stephanie, homeownership has already made a positive impact on her family.

“It’s a sense of permanence we didn’t have before,” she said. Their two-bedroom BHP apartment had clocked in at just 1000 square feet. Now a family of six, being crammed into a small space got in the way of everyday tasks.

“My daughter gets to have her own space,” said Stephanie. “If we need to separate the kids for a while or put the baby down for naps, we can do that now. Our whole life has changed for the better.”

“It helped us really stay within our values,” added Ignacio, who rides his bike to work not just to save money and time commuting, but also to make a positive environmental impact. He and Stephanie encourage their kids to do the same by walking or biking the half-mile to school each day.

“I tell them, look, you wouldn’t see these birds or these butterflies, you wouldn’t get to talk to new people if we were stuck in the car,” said Stephanie.

For Stephanie and Ignacio, partnering – and building - with Habitat was about more than finding a place to live within their budget. It was a way to put down long-lasting roots in the community where they have grown their family and shaped their lives.

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