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Building Together City, Job Corps Team Up To Remodel Home For Low-Income Family

Tue., Feb. 7, 1995, midnight

A crew of rookie carpenters transformed a tattered Spokane home into a five-bedroom, two-bath house that soon will be a bargain for some poor Spokane family.

The revamped house is a real estate prize, considering the monthly mortgage payment will be about $300, the cost of some dive apartments in the city.

The house at W1423 Grace is the latest City Hall effort to create low-income housing.

The renovation was a joint project of the city and the Spokane Service Team, a job corps program run by Educational School District 101.

Mayor Jack Geraghty visited the project Monday, and was impressed with the inexpensive, novice labor. “Out of all that training will come a home that will certainly benefit a low-income and large family in Spokane.”

The city has bought, renovated and sold 17 homes in the past two years as part of a program paid for by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

That program, and the homes built by Habitat for Humanity, are two of the few programs expanding Spokane’s affordable housing.

Voters spiked a housing bond last year designed to ease the rental squeeze. There remain more than 9,000 people now on a waiting list for subsidized housing.

The Grace Avenue home was an abandoned disaster when the city bought it for $31,000. Garbage was piled high and stinking in the basement. There was only one bedroom in the two-story house.

Seeking a low-cost renovation, the city hired the Spokane Service Team.

Led by construction veteran Scott Thaut, the team of novice carpenters built a second-floor addition and bathroom. They also framed the basement and punched in new windows for bedrooms.

“Two months ago I was teaching them how to pound nails,” Thaut said, looking proudly at the progress.

“It’s a real good opportunity for people our age to change our minds about our community,” said Donavon O’Keefe, 23, one of 31 team members between the ages 16 and 25. “I think everyone on the crew felt they didn’t have a direction.”

O’Keefe said working as a team forces people to shed their “gangsta” attitudes. “We gotta work with each other every morning.”

The 11-month program also gives O’Keefe, and other members who complete it, $4,750 toward more schooling, or past student loans.

The service team is part of AmeriCorps, launched by former President George Bush’s “Thousand Points of Light” crusade.

The city paid the team members $4.90 an hour each to renovate the Grace Avenue home. The labor tab is expected to be $10,000, about a third of what it would have cost to pay contractors, according to city officials.

“I’ve seen work done by supposed pros that is nowhere near the quality of work being done on this house,” said Neice Schafer, of the city’s community development office. “The kids are fantastic.”

The city will sell the Grace Avenue home to a Spokane family that fits the eligibility profile. For starters, the family must be big enough to need all five bedrooms, and make enough money to comfortably cover the mortgage.

Geraghty said he wants to organize a housing summit later this year so all the different organizations working on the issue can brainstorm solutions.

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