Habitat for Humanity completes first home

Habitat, (hab.i.tat) n. 1. An environment in which to live and grow. 2. The place where one can usually be found.

December 14, 2005

Mid-Columbia Habitat for Humanity is nearing completion of its first house. The home, located in Odell, will be substantially finished this month and its new owners, a couple with two children, will move in sometime in January.

The Mid-Columbia Habitat for Humanity chapter was officially launched in 2000 and affiliated with Habitat For Humanity International in 2002. HFHI is a nonprofit, non-denominational organization dedicated to providing simple, decent and affordable homes to those in need.

Eligible homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own “sweat equity” labor into their homes, and then are able to purchase them at no profit through interest-free loans.

The family was chosen from a pool of qualified applicants who met criteria for Mid-Columbia Habitat’s first home.

“We select someone who is able to become a homeowner,” said Stan Horack, general contractor for the project and a Habitat board member. “We look for those who have the most need but also have the ability to pay the mortgage.” Habitat has a “family support committee” that meets regularly with the family before and after they move into their home.

“This family has been really wonderful,” said Horack, adding that they have been “enthusiastically helping on the house from the beginning.”

“It makes my job nice,” he said. (The family is in Mexico until January and was unavailable for comment.)

Construction on the 1,170-square-foot home started last summer. Along with the family’s help, Horack has had a steady stream of volunteers along the way. Much of the subcontractor work has been donated by local businesses.

Because the Mid-Columbia Habitat chapter is affiliated with the international organization, it reaps the benefits of long-standing partnerships between HFHI and several large corporations which donate products to the organization. Hunter Douglas provides window coverings; Whirlpool furnishes refrigerators and ranges for all Habitat homes and offers other appliances at reduced prices; Yale provides lock sets for Habitat homes.

To keep costs low, Horack and the Habitat board got creative wherever they could. With some donated lumber, Horack built his own trusses instead of having to buy them. A matching set of kitchen cabinets was found at a furniture outlet, which offered a discount beyond the already relatively-low cost.

A Habitat board member contacted a regional window manufacturer where she had bought windows for her own home — and the company donated high quality windows for the entire house.

The home will be sold at below market value. The homeowners make interest-free mortgage payments to a fund that helps to build still more Habitat homes around the world.

The Mid-Columbia Habitat chapter is actively looking for land for its next house.

“Our biggest problem is land,” Horack said. “Around here, our out-of-pocket cost for land is more than it is to build the house.” But he’s optimistic that, with Habitat’s first Mid-Columbia house nearly finished, momentum is building for the organization.

“It’s such a good cause,” he said. “I believe Habitat is pretty healthy. We’re finding a lot of volunteers and getting a lot of donations from local businesses. It’s been a lot of fun.”

For information about Mid-Columbia Habitat for Humanity, call Anne Sutton at (541) 386-1669.

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