Zuriyah Clary wanted a better upbringing for her children, having lived for years in a two-bedroom apartment in Huntersville.
While the apartment complex was generally safe, she often found herself worrying while the kids played outside, concerned they might wander into the streets.
But since the 34-year-old moved into a three-bedroom house early this year – with its own backyard – she has enjoyed “more peace of mind,” she said.
Clary spent hundreds of hours helping build her home in the leafy Norman Park community, also in Huntersville, as part of a home ownership program that paid for its construction.
Early next month, she will speak at a fundraiser for the program, Women Build, which aims to help women learn home-building skills such as installing walls and shingling roofs. It is part of Our Towns Habitat for Humanity, an affiliate of the namesake international nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing in northern Mecklenburg and Iredell counties.
The annual fundraiser, Tastes of Habitat, is scheduled for Nov. 5 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville. It will feature live music and an auction, along with miniature entrees and desserts donated by well-known restaurants throughout the Lake Norman area.
Working to address the dearth of affordable housing in what is considered one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, Habitat has built a total of more than 350 houses in the decades since it was founded, said Lynne Priestley, a spokeswoman for the organization.
About one-fourth of them are in Mooresville, including a cluster of houses in the Burke Crossings subdivision, where Habitat officials are expected to dedicate two more next weekend.
In addition to new construction, the organization has carried out free or affordable repairs on several hundred houses.
In the coming year, Habitat plans to build a total of 18 houses, averaging a little more than one a month, as well as repair about three dozen, Priestley said. Last year, it built up a dozen.
The Women Build program, for its part, has financed and helped build a total of eight houses, with Clary’s being the latest. Habitat is seeking to raise about $75,000 for another one in an undetermined location.
“We’re busy,” Priestley said. Referring to the Women Build program, she added that while it’s also open to men, it’s meant to bring together “women from all walks of life to address the housing crisis.”
But despite its steady pace and the scores of volunteers it has drawn over the years – more than 2,400 worked for the organization last year alone, Priestly said – nearly 20,000 people are seeking affordable housing in Huntersville to the northern end of Iredell, according to Jeff Porter, Habitat’s executive director.
Moreover, more than 5,000 people live in substandard housing, the organization estimates, taking into account the poverty rate and the number of single-family homes in the area. In northern Mecklenburg and Iredell counties, nearly 9 percent of the population lives at or below the federal poverty level, Porter noted. In Iredell alone, 13 percent live in poverty.
Here, “it’s harder to find land to buy at an affordable rate,” Porter said, noting that Habitat has 50 people on its waiting list. “Because of that, it’s harder to build affordable housing.”
To qualify for affordable housing built by Habitat, applicants must make enough money to pay for their home and spend a total of 400 hours helping build it, as well as attend classes on home ownership.
The houses are sold through mortgages with zero percent interest rates. They are based on the income of the homeowner and the size of their family, averaging about $450 per month and not exceeding 30 percent of their monthly income, Porter said.
Clary, the Huntersville homeowner, said she has felt more at ease since moving into her new home in February.
A commercial real estate analyst, she received a law degree from the Charlotte School of Law this spring, completing the program in two years while working as a hairdresser and raising her three children, ages 8, 5 and 2.
While she acknowledged that her new dwelling is far more spacious than her previous one, Clary is perhaps most appreciative knowing that her children are safe. “Once you have children,” she said, “it becomes important” to have a home.
Jake Flannick is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you go
The Tastes of Habitat fundraiser for Our Towns Habitat for Humanity’s Women build program will be held 6-9 p.m. Nov. 5 at Charles Mack Citizen Center in downtown Mooresville. Tickets are $50 apiece or $350 for a table of eight. For tickets, go to visit http://www.ourtownshabitat.org/.