Wednesday, July 11, Habitat for Humanity hosted itsfirst home dedication in Park City. Not only was it a major step in Park City's development of affordable housing, but it also represents the first Habitat for Humanity home built to 'green' specifications in Utah.

Park City Municipal donated the land on Marsac Avenue where the home now stands. About six years ago, the city reached out to Habitat for Humanity to begin discussing development of an affordable housing project. The land transfer was completed in November of 2010.

"When the city decided to donate this land, I knew it was a good thing I'm very proud that we know what it takes to create a diverse and thriving town," said Park City Mayor Dana Williams.

Lisa Schneider, the Executive Director of the Summit and Wasatch Counties branch of Habitat for Humanity, described the valuable partnership that Habitat for Humanity was able to build with Park City Municipal throughout the process.

""I only have positive things to say Park City Municipal, at every level, has walked with us and has been a partner. We've had this really amazing collaboration the entire way," said Schneider.

The new homeowner, Lisa Laswell, describes her experience with Habitat for Humanity as a dream come true.

"I had heard about Habitat, but I never really thought that I was a candidate," Laswell said.

As a single mother of three who has lived in Park City for 20 years, Laswell has spent that last few years working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet. Her rental units have required between 65 and 70 percent of her income, and she has moved her family nine times in the past five years.

After attending an orientation meeting, Laswell realized that she did, in fact, meet Habitat's qualifications for the program and filed an application. Applications were reviewed by the Family Services Committee, a volunteer panel made up of local leaders with experience in both social services and mortgage underwriting. Habitat for Humanity has three basic criteria for their New Homes program which include demonstrated need, ability to support a mortgage payment, and a willingness to partner with Habitat throughout the building process.

Habitat for Humanity broke ground in July of last year, and Laswell was informed that she was the chosen recipient in January. At that point she had completed her preliminary 30 sweat equity hours.

"The sweat equity gives people that sense of investing in their home side by side with their community," Schneider said.

The home was built in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College's Construction Trades program. Students from SLCC did the framing, dry-in, sheet rock and cabinetry. Work on the home was dependent on SLCC's term schedule the footing and foundation were finished in August, it was framed and dried by mid-December and the certificate of occupancy cleared about two weeks ago.

The monthly mortgage payment on Laswell's new Habitat home is more than $700 less per month than her current rent payments. Laswell commented that from a community standpoint, that is $700 each month that will probably re-enter the community at large. That $700 does not include utilities, Laswell explained, which she anticipates to cost less than $100 per month since the home was built to LEED specifications.

LEED is a certification program that measures green building design. Laswell explained the two main aspects of a LEED home include 'green' building techniques and sustainability. Every aspect of the house from the framing to the insulation to the appliances and heating units were built with efficiency in mind. The emphasis on sustainability ensures that the home is built to last and will require few repairs and replacements.

The home was purchased with a zero-interest loan and every monthly mortgage payment will be used to build more Habitat for Humanity homes.

"It is so gratifying to know that the mortgage dollars I will pay each month to Habitat will get paid forward to our community to support other families in need," Laswell said. 

While building affordable housing in an expensive resort town may appear challenging, Schneider was pleased to say that they were on time and on budget throughout the process. She explained that the cost of building the home is kept down in part by "In Kind" donations of services and supplies by local businesses. Habitat for Humanity also raised about $150,000 through events, grants and individual donations.

Looking to the future, Schneider explained that the local Habitat chapter plans to build a second home in Park City that is scheduled to be finished about this same time next year. The group is still in the process of raising funds for that project.

"Fundraising is an ongoing effort. We are currently fundraising to cover all the anticipated costs for the next build. Still need to raise about $100,000 to cover those out of pocket costs. That is an ongoing effort and sometimes it is a challenge," Schneider said.

For most everyone involved, this is a new and exciting chapter in Park City development. Laswell herself explained that the significance of this home is less about her family and more about the program to help other families struggling to meet housing costs in Park City.

"Having been involved with it, I will always be involved [with Habitat] in some way shape or form," Laswell said.

For more information about Habitat for Humanity, log on to www.habitat-utah.org or contact the Summit and Wasatch Counties branch by phone :(435)658-1400.

Executive Director Lisa Schneider can be reached via email at lschneider@habitat-utah.org

Donations are now being accepted for the next Park City home.