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By Libby Smith

DENVER (CBS4) – In Colorado’s fast-paced housing market, many families are seeing their dream of homeownership dissolve. As rents rise and home prices fluctuate, it’s become increasingly difficult for lower income families to save the money for a down payment. Habitat for Humanity is helping families make the transition into homeownership, but it’s also expanding services to keep people in their homes.

“We had about three times the number of families that reached out to Habitat than in 2014,” said Heather Lafferty, CEO of Habitat for Humanity, of the number of applications to the program in 2015.

The organization served 75 families in 2015, expanding its services to include renovations, and critical home repair.

LINK: Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver

“This is allowing families who are in their home, neighbors to some of our Habitat families, to get a new front door, new windows, a new roof — things that make their older home more safe, secure and healthy for their family,” Lafferty explained.

Heather Hamilton is a single mother of three. She recently moved back to Colorado from West Virginia. She and her kids have been squeezed into a three-bedroom apartment with the rent steadily increasing.

“It’s about half of what I bring home from my job,” Hamilton told CBS4.

She wanted more for her 13-year-old daughter, Carli, and twins, Cole and Connor, so she started looking at housing options. She thought homeownership was out of her financial reach.

“I knew probably to buy a home would be pretty impossible, because being a single mom and coming up with a down payment was not going to be easy for me,” Hamilton said.

She says she applied to Habitat for Humanity on a whim and was amazed when she got accepted. Earning a Habitat house isn’t easy. Heather did 200 hours of sweat equity in her and her neighbor’s homes, 40 hours of money management classes, and went through a rigorous selection process. Within a year she became a homeowner.

“It’s going to make a huge difference in our lives,” Hamilton said through tears at her home dedication ceremony.

A zero percent interest mortgage loan directly from Habitat for Humanity makes the house affordable for Hamilton, allowing her to save for her children’s college educations, and her retirement. But the real reward for Hamilton is the message that owning your own home sends to her kids.

Libby Smith is a Special Projects Producer at CBS4. If you have a story you’d like to tell CBS4 about, call 303-863-TIPS (8477) or visit the News Tips section.

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