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Habitat builds for the future, right now

Fri., June 1, 2007, midnight

After emigrating from Bosnia to Spokane in 1999, Omar Arnautovic is excited to finally move into a house that has enough room for his family.

His new three-bedroom home could be finished during Habitat for Humanity Spokane’s annual Blitz Build. For 16 days starting today, more than 100 community members are expected to storm the 1600 block of East Boone Avenue in Spokane to build or finish Arnautovic’s duplex, two three-family townhouses and one single-family home.

“In the new house, we’re going to have room for everyone,” said Arnautovic, a 36-year-old truck driver. “It’s a safe house.”

His current two-bedroom home has windows that don’t seal and doesn’t have enough room for his wife, Ajsa, and their two children, he said. But on Aug. 1, they’ll move to a nicer place that saves them $250 a month.

With the extra cash, the Arnautovics would like to someday be able to send their 11-year-old son, Elmedim, and 3-year-old daughter, Edina, to college.

Habitat for Humanity sells low-income homes for an average of $80,000 with no-interest mortgages. Money from the mortgages goes to fund future building projects.

The organization already has owners lined up for the other Boone Avenue dwellings — low-income residents and families who wouldn’t be able to buy a house on their own, said Courtney Susemiehl, Habitat for Humanity’s development director in Spokane.

When people move in, they often end up paying less than they would by renting an apartment, she said.

“This is their only way. This is the only way they can rise out of that poverty situation and grow as a family,” Susemiehl said. “That’s economic development.”

The owners also are required to volunteer at least 500 hours for Habitat for Humanity, including at least 100 hours helping to build their new homes.

Construction supervisors from the organization look over the Blitz Builds, which also teach average citizens valuable labor skills. Professional contractors often volunteer their time, Susemiehl said.

Though the single-family home will be built from the ground up in just 16 days, she assured the finished homes will be decent.

“Our quality is still very high,” she said. “And our emphasis is on maintaining that, and we’re not going to compromise the quality of homes when we’re building back-to-back in 16 days. It’s a matter of scheduling.”

Traditionally, volunteers include people from groups and organizations. But Habitat for Humanity also has some individuals who volunteer every year.

“You know, this is what they do — they build for us,” Susemiehl said. “They’ll swing the hammer every day.”The development is across the street from a row of Habitat for Humanity homes built three or four years ago, she said. Right now, the future construction site is an empty lot.

“Our ongoing need is to find affordable vacant land,” Susemiehl said. “So when we find it, we cherish it and do what we can with that parcel.”


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