Jeremiah Feicht and his family have been ousted from their rentals three times in the past 20 months. Each time, landlords either sold the house or decided to move back in.
“It’s just so unstable,” Feicht said, “not knowing what school my kid’s going to be in because we’ve got to move.”
That uncertainty vanished when Feicht received a call from Habitat for Humanity about a week ago, telling him that he, his wife and three children — ages 6, 3 and 2 — were selected for an affordable home at The Grove.
“It was exciting,” Feicht said. “Honestly, my wife and I had gotten to a place where we felt kind of unwanted by the community in a lot of ways. It’s just so encouraging to feel like the script has flipped. The community really does want us.”
The Feicht family is one of eight Jackson households that received similar phone calls. The new homeowners, along with a ninth family that will move into an existing Habitat unit on Hall Street, were introduced at the nonprofit’s annual Dream Builders Luncheon benefit Thursday. It’s Teton Habitat’s largest fundraiser of the year.
Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Teton Area builds affordable houses with 30-year, zero-interest mortgages for the community’s lowest-income earners. Monthly mortgage payments are set at less than 30 percent of the family’s income.
In 2016, Teton County commissioners voted to hand over construction of the final 24 three-bedroom units of The Grove affordable housing project to Habitat, which uses volunteer and homeowner labor to keep construction costs low, at about $175 per square foot.
Executive Director Kendra Heimbuck said that, so far, 1,400 volunteers have contributed almost 8,000 hours of work on The Grove. Construction began on the first two fourplexes in June 2017, and the units are nearing completion, she said. The move-in date for the first homes is set for September.
“We are doing a lot of interior finishes,” Heimbuck said. “Everything from painting and flooring to setting doors and cabinets and trim.”
The next two fourplexes, one unit of which will go to the Feichts, are being framed. Heimbuck said their construction was accelerated from Habitat’s original plan and is about four months ahead of schedule.
“We really wanted to take advantage of this window of nice weather and get framing done in the summertime” and erect roofs over the next eight units before winter, she said.
Homeowners are required to contribute 500 hours of “sweat equity” labor into constructing the homes, 250 to 300 of which can be supported with help from friends and family.
New Grove homeowners Chad and Amber Darnel have a 2-year-old son and one more kid on the way. After years of struggling in the Jackson housing market, Chad said it was “unreal” to find out he would receive a Grove condo.
“I don’t think it’s even hit us yet,” he said.
He said he looks forward to his kids growing up as part of the Habitat for Humanity community.
“My kids get to grow up being part of just helping other people,” he said.
New homeowners will work alongside the eight existing homeowners on all the units.
“It’s a nice community-building process,” Heimbuck said. “They each get to invest time into each other’s homes. It helps to instill a sense of solidarity among all the homeowners. They’re not just in it to finish their home; they’re in it to help build their entire neighborhood.”
Thirty-five people applied for the eight Grove units. A selection committee evaluates candidates based on need, ability to pay and willingness to partner with Habitat on the project. The process includes a review of finances, credit and legal status and an in-person evaluation of the conditions of their current home.
All 24 Grove units are projected to be complete by June 2021.