Sheridan Square Habitat for Humanity project providing families a place of their own in south metro city
The two-block-square property won’t be built out until 2020 or so, but the excitement is palpable as the first homes near completion at Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s Sheridan Square.
The 63-home, $16 million development will encompass 4.35 acres southeast of South Knox Court and West Kenyon Avenue, once home to Fort Logan Elementary School in the city of Sheridan. Once complete, it will be the largest Habitat for Humanity housing project in Colorado.
Future homeowners selected to move into the nonprofit group’s first triplexes at Sheridan Square still have a lot of work to do. Many are in the middle of putting in the required 200 hours of physical labor — sweat equity, as Habitat calls it — and all must take homebuyer education courses, including sessions on budgeting and home maintenance, before they receive the keys to their permanently affordable homes.
Becky Gestner says the work will be more than worth it when she and her daughter spend the first night in their own home.
“I’m just ecstatic,” the 62-year-old Gestner said last week after spending time on a ladder nailing wooden panels onto the house she will move into this fall. “It’s been a little hard, working and coming out here and doing the sweat equity, but I think I am incredibly lucky to have a home that is going to be affordable and maybe have some money left over.”
Gestner works full time in the meat department at the Sprouts Farmers Market near the Southwest Plaza Mall. She lives with her 26-year-old daughter, Allie, who is autistic and cannot work. Allie receives Social Security assistance, her mother said. For the past year and a half, they have lived in an apartment off Sheridan Boulevard in south Denver, but making bills every month is a struggle.
“We’re paying $1,650 a month for a two-bedroom. With that and utilities and food we’re scraping. We really are,” she said.
Gestner said she contacted a real estate agent last year about finding a better housing option. The agent recommended she look into Sheridan Square. Gestner said she jumped up and down, celebrating at work, when she got the news she’d been approved as a homeowner.
The project’s two-bedroom homes start at $168,000, said Robyn Burns, spokeswoman for Habitat Metro Denver. Sheridan Square will include two-, three-, four- and five-bedroom homes, with a maximum price of about $200,000 to $225,000, Burns said.
The average price of a single-family home in the metro area reached a record $487,974 earlier this month, according to real estate data.
Habitat for Humanity homeowners’ monthly payments are limited to ensure the houses remain affordable, Burns said. The nonprofit looks at mortgage payments and estimated utility and insurance costs to keep those basic bills at or below 30 percent of a family’s gross monthly income. The homebuyer education courses are an important piece of Habitat’s success in metro Denver, she said.
“We have less than a 2 percent foreclosure rate since we’ve been building over the last 38 years in metro Denver,” Burns said.
Construction at Sheridan Square began in September and the first residents could move in this summer.
Heather Lafferty is the CEO and executive director of Habitat Metro Denver. Given the metro area’s hot real estate market, the nonprofit can’t be too picky when looking for land, she said, but she’s excited about Sheridan Square. There has been significant economic development in the area during the last decade and many area businesses need employees. Sheridan Square residents could save on transportation costs if they can find work in the neighborhood.
The project likely will boost enrollment at Sheridan School District No. 2 schools, she added. An estimated 225 children will live at Sheridan Square. The project also will boost property taxes for the city. Habitat says the project will increase owner-occupied housing in Sheridan by 6 percent and generate $77,000 in new tax revenue when complete.
“We know there is a need for affordable home ownership that not only provides great housing opportunities but also helps to invest in communities and help stabilize them,” Lafferty said. “Homeownership has an impact on schools, local businesses and crime rates in neighborhoods. Families are really invested in their neighborhoods and their community. That has a ripple effect.”
As with all Habitat developments, Sheridan Square could not be built without volunteers. Burns said the project has routinely drawn 55 to 60 volunteers to its Thursday, Friday and Saturday work days.
Last week, Cindy Allen and co-workers with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. worked on Becky Gestner’s triplex. Anadarko is sponsoring the building. Allen has met Gestner and her daughter and heard their story, which makes the volunteer work all the more important to her.
“You know, having a safe home is a core need and I find a lot of joy in helping build people’s homes so they can feel safe and secure,” Allen said. “It’s just so meaningful that (Becky) is able to have an affordable home for her and her daughter.”
Moving into Sheridan Square will offer more than an affordable home, Gestner said. It will offer a place she can hang her daughter’s artwork without a second thought; she won’t worry about patching nail holes when her lease is up.
“My apartment is OK. It’s a nice place. But it’s not mine,” she said. “I can’t put a picture up on the wall. I couldn’t plant flowers. I wanted a place of my own.”