Glacier Village completes 16 low-income valley homes

Posted: Friday, August 19, 2005

Thanks to Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, a young couple can welcome a new life in a new home.

Telise Gamble and her fiancé, David Watkins, moved into a brand-new condominium on Valley Boulevard Thursday. They are expecting their first child in October.

"Having my first child and having a place for him, I feel very lucky," Gamble, 19, said.

Their condo is one of the 16 units that make up the third and final phase of Glacier Village, a housing project built by Tlingit-Haida for families earning 60 percent or less of Juneau's median family income.

The project has a total of 66 units, most of them single-family homes. Some of them have appreciated more than $30,000 within a year.

Gamble has reason to feel lucky. In a tight housing market, she had to compete with more than 350 applicants to get into one of the 16 units.

All of the applicants had to go through rigorous interviews and meet the income requirements set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. A family of three cannot earn more than $45,900 or $38,250 annually, depending on the type of unit.

Watkins, who handles luggage and cargo for Alaska Airlines, said he wouldn't be able to afford a house of his own just on his salary. He said he brings home about $1,600 a month.

Before moving into their new house, Gamble and Watkins had been renting a studio for $746 a month. With a subsidy from the housing authority, the couple will pay $746 a month for the condo. The fair market monthly rent would be $1,052.

"We don't have to sleep in the living room anymore," said Watkins, 29.

If they live in the condo for 15 years they will have the option of buying it at its current move-in price, which is about $250,000.

"Home ownership is part of the American dream," said Judy Mason, communications specialist for the housing authority. "Offering that option is the most unique part of our program."

"Eventually we want to buy a house but this is where we want to be for a while," Gamble said.

When a housing inspector showed the couple around the house, Watkins turned on a shower. He turned and called for Gamble.

"Look at that," Watkins said while looking at water shooting from the shower head.

"Our shower head doesn't work well and we don't have a bathtub," Gamble explained.

The couple's neighbor, Jean Vavalis, also moved in Thursday.

A wheelchair user because of her arthritis, Vavalis got a two-bedroom condo with a wheelchair ramp at the back. The condo's bathroom, kitchen and doors are designed low and wide enough for her to maneuver her wheelchair.

A Tlingit, she is able to get a subsidy from the housing authority and can rent the condo for $540.

"Everything is convenient, new and beautiful," said Vavalis, 65. "I cannot wait to decorate the house."

Vavalis said she would consider buying the condo after living there for 15 years.

"If I live that long," Vavalis said.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.



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