South Charlotte

Habitat finds new ways to build homes

Union-Anson County Habitat for Humanity helps lower-income families find permanent homes.

Since 1990, they’ve built 122 homes in Union and Anson County, in North Carolina, and Chesterfield County in South Carolina. So far this year they’ve built 12 new homes and completed urgent repairs on 40 others.

“We try to dedicate one home a month. We plan to build between 12 and 15 new homes a year between the three counties,” said Executive Director Mike Reece.

“We build for people who are earning 30-50 percent of the median income level. We build for people who will never have the opportunity to own their own home with a traditional mortgage. We offer a hand up, not a hand out.”

Habitat, like most other nonprofits, depends on financial and material donations, and volunteers.

In Sunday’s paper, you saw the Charlotte Observer’s annual Giving Guide, a listing of nonprofit organizations that can use your help. The list includes a description of what the organization does, contact information, and how you can assist.

The list includes groups working to feed hungry and abused people, care for those who are sick and rescue abused and homeless animals.

The needs are great, but when everyone pitches in, amazing things can happen.

Take Habitat, for example. Volunteers, under the guidance of a seasoned supervisor, do most of the labor. Without volunteers, the cost of building the home would be much greater.

The homeowner also puts hundreds of hours into construction, takes numerous classes to learn responsible home ownership, and then buys the house at cost, financed by Habitat. As the mortgage is paid back, the money is directed to construction of another house.

Reece said home design and size are tailored to the size of the family that will live there. The average Habitat home is 1,300 square feet with four bedrooms and costs $85,000.

In addition to building new homes, the Union-Anson Habitat chapter also participates in the Urgent Repair Program sponsored by the USDA. Seniors ages 55 and older, and homeowners who are disabled, can apply for grants and Habitat will make the needed repairs to their homes.

The organization also runs three ReStores (thrift shops that sell used building supplies), two in Monroe and one in Cheraw, S.C. They are getting ready to add a fourth in Wadesboro next year.

The ReStores need donations of just about everything to sell in the stores, volunteers to help run them, and shoppers to come take advantage of the big bargains.

In an interesting twist on traditional fundraising, Habitat also has started a huge reclamation project where they are deconstructing homes slated to be demolished for the Monroe Bypass.

“N.C. DOT has agreed to let us deconstruct 180 homes over the next two years,” Reece said. “We will be taking windows, doors, cabinets, and other salvageable items to sell in our ReStores. We will be recycling copper wiring and other items from these houses. This will provide funding so that we can build even more homes.”