Although Angels Camp hasn’t seen much new home construction in recent years, Habitat for Humanity Calaveras (Habitat Calaveras) has been working to change that.

At a meeting on Feb. 16, the Angels Camp City Council held a public hearing and unanimously approved a development agreement for Habitat Calaveras’ subdivision project off of Copello Drive.

The roughly 17-acre project area is planned to contain 107 units of workforce housing, including 65 single-family homes and seven 6-plexes, as well as a small recreational area. Households of up to four making up to $64,000 can qualify to purchase the homes, and larger families can make up to $80,000. Applicants must also qualify for a low-interest loan and put in “sweat equity” during the construction process.

“(I’m) looking forward to seeing this project go through,” Councilmember Jeremy Leonard said during the meeting.

Destination Angels Camp (DAC) Executive Director Debbie Ponte read a letter of support for the project on behalf of the DAC Board of Directors during the public hearing. While Habitat Calaveras Executive Director Scott Behiel and Councilmember Gretel Tiscornia are also currently on the DAC board, they did not participate in drafting the letter, Ponte said.

“The need for housing for our local workforce has been determined to be a top priority by our local business leaders,” she said. “Housing is a key component to support our economic development mission and enhance business vitality. In addition, this project also meets the needs as identified and approved by the city council within the housing element of the General Plan 2020. This project will bring much needed housing for our workforce, which in turn will help support our economic strategy to bring jobs to our city and our region.”

Behiel said on Feb. 19 that he was excited to see the project moving forward.

“It was a long time coming, but everything’s approved,” he said. “We have a development agreement in place, so now the next step for us is to answer all of the conditions of the approval.”

Few changes were made during the approval process, Behiel said.

“We pretty much got what we are looking for,” he said. “What was really important for us is that the city agreed to make the roads public roads and put them in their maintenance program. That helped us a lot. … The city has been really, really good to work with.”

Behiel said that the project has been met with widespread community support.

“We went in front of the planning commission, and also the city council twice, and in neither of those three meetings did we get anybody that objected,” he said. “They had some questions, but there were no objections.”

Habitat Calaveras will now focus on finalizing plans and securing funding for putting in roads, sewers, sidewalks, gutters, lights, landscaping and other infrastructure, Behiel said. He said that he hoped to be able to get bids for putting in the infrastructure this summer, and to have the actual construction of homes begin in the fall of 2022.

“Late ’22 or early ’23 would be our hope,” he said.

Because applicants will have to qualify for low-interest loans, Behiel advised those interested in purchasing the homes to begin working to get their finances in order by ensuring they have a credit score of at least 640, low consumer debt and a stable job history over the previous two years.

“A lot of people come in with good credit, but they’ve got a $600 truck payment that blows them out of the water,” he said. “If people can start getting their ducks in a row a year early, then by the time they’re ready to go, they’re going to look good as borrowers.”

In addition to the subdivision project, Habitat Calaveras is also building a home in Copperopolis, which is planned to be completed in late April or early May. 

“We’ve got a homebuyer chosen,” Behiel said. “She’s going to be out there tomorrow working on it.”

The organization is also engaged in a countywide home-repair program to carry out critical home repairs for low-income households.

Last fall, Habitat Calaveras received a $323,000 grant for its home-repair program, which will need to be spent within two years, Behiel said. Households of up to four making up to $64,000 can qualify, while larger households can make up to $80,000.

“Now, our challenge is to get the word out that we have this program available,” he said. “We put in a lot of roofs; we do a lot of decks; we’ve even repaired a couple of foundations.”

The program offers affordable home repairs done by licensed contractors. Households making below $35,000, seniors, disabled residents and those in need of repairs due to a natural disaster can generally qualify for a $2,000 subsidy towards the repairs.

“We can offer a subsidy of $2,000 to help do some minor repairs, but if they have a roof they want to put on, we’ve got to give them a home-repair loan,” Behiel said. “It’s interest free for five years, and we keep the payments really low. We also have preferred contractors that offer discounts, so we can get it done at a lower price with interest-free financing, but they still have to be able to qualify.”

Though the nonprofit’s biggest fundraiser, Habitat Hoedown, was held virtually last fall, the event again raised more money than the previous year, netting $58,000.

“The community support has been amazing,” Behiel said. “All the money that was raised at that event is going directly to the subdivision. People are excited about the impact. It’s nice to build a home at a time now and then, but when you look at the overall big picture, is that really having much of an impact on the community? And if we can build 100 homes, now there’s an impact. That’s something that everybody can feel and everybody’s going to benefit from.”

Those interested in applying for Habitat Calaveras’ programs or volunteering can contact the organization’s headquarters at (209) 890-3848.

For more information, visit habitat calaveras.org.

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Reporter

Noah Berner has lived in Calaveras County most of his life, and graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz with a degree in history.

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