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18 new Habitat homes draw Reid Park nods of approval

Habitat for Humanity's plan to build 18 new homes in communities along West Boulevard in coming months is getting nods of approval, for two reasons.

For one, families that otherwise might never qualify to own a home are able to do so. And in Reid Park, new homes going up on vacant lots are a symbol of change for many residents.

“If you look at the demographics for Reid Park, we've got a lot of rental properties,” said Harriette Mahoney, president of the Reid Park Neighborhood Association. “We want to try to even out that ratio of owners to renters. So we're looking at this as a big plus.”

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte is celebrating its 25th anniversary and has set a goal of serving 25 families during its Building on Faith celebration.

Besides building 18 new homes, Habitat expects to make repairs to seven existing homes. The repairs can forestall the city from condemning a home and displacing the residents, said Jessica Gibson, a Habitat spokesperson.

The anniversary celebration kicks off Sept. 27 with a weeklong building blitz. Construction is scheduled to wrap up in November.

Habitat plans to build most of the new homes in Reid Park and Wingate.

To qualify, families must meet income requirements and commit to giving 250 hours of work toward Habitat home-building projects. They also must have limited debt.

John Tate is leading a group of 10 churches from all over that city that have returned for a 10th year and plan to build two houses in Wingate.

Tate was noticeably moved as he shared details about the immigrant families he expects will occupy the homes.

Both families lived lives of subsistence in Vietnam. It took years for the couple that Habitat identifies as Thot A and his wife Byiu Y, a farming family, to get clearance to come to the United States.

The family, which today includes four children and a grandchild, arrived in Charlotte with virtually nothing.

Thot A, 56, is disabled from back and hip injuries. He fought with American soldiers in Vietnam and spent three years as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese, representatives at Habitat said.

The couple's 23-year-old son, Thai, took over as head of the household when he was 10.

The second couple is Set Nie and Hmec “Maggie” Eban. The couple have a 4-year-old daughter and an 8-month-old son.

Nie fled Vietnam to escape violent attacks on Christians, he said. He lived in the jungles of Cambodia for three months.

United Nations representatives found him in a Cambodian jail and helped him seek refuge in the U.S. in 2001.

“What's intriguing about both of these families is what they went through to get to the United States,” Tate said. “You talk about fulfillment of a dream and the promise of America. This is what it's all about.”