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Spokane Habitat affiliate wins funding for ‘green’ homes

Tue., Aug. 4, 2009, 5:35 p.m.

Habitat for  Humanity volunteers work on a house Wednesday, June 3, 2009.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Habitat for Humanity volunteers work on a house Wednesday, June 3, 2009. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane’s Habitat for Humanity affiliate is one of 123 in the country that will build energy-efficient, low-income homes as part of a national program fostering affordable “green” construction.

Starting within a month, the award will mean an infusion of up to $60,000 for a dozen homes to be built through the Spokane affiliate. The new homes are targeted to have energy savings ranging from 15 to 30 percent compared with traditional home construction.

Atlanta-based Home Depot Foundation and Habitat for Humanity International jointly are funding the project, which will build 5,000 “green” homes in 45 states.

Kelly Caffarelli, president of the Home Depot Foundation, said the intention is to show energy-efficient homes are not a luxury. The foundation selected affiliates based on past ability to build energy-efficient homes.

Spokane had no trouble qualifying, said Michone Preston, executive director of Habitat-Spokane.

“We’ve been building sustainable homes for years,” she said. “We’ve put radiant floor heating systems in the last 40 homes we’ve built.”

For each of the homes built by Habitat-Spokane, the foundation will provide $3,000 to $5,000 to offset higher costs for “green” features such as more durable materials and insulating windows.

Preston said the homes will cost between $100,000 and $120,000, depending on whether they have two or three bedrooms. Nine of the homes are already on the drawing board, soon to be built in a group of three triplexes near the corner of East Boone and Helena.

The other three homes are not yet planned. The 12 buyers will be low-income residents or families already on Habitat-Spokane’s list of qualifying applicants, Preston said.

The infusion of grant dollars comes at a time when Habitat-Spokane’s contributions have dropped due to the economic downturn.

“When corporations and businesses experience a recession, they cut back on extras; charitable programs and partnerships like ours are what get cut,” said Preston.

So far Habitat-Spokane has built nearly 200 homes in Spokane County. People who qualify to own those homes must earn much less than the median family income for Spokane and invest 500 hours of “sweat equity” by performing labor or cleanup on their own or others’ construction projects.

They pay off the mortgage at zero percent interest over 20 or 30 years, depending on their family income level.

In 2007 Habitat-Spokane built 21 homes. This year it will be a much lower total, said Preston.

The 12 homes will be completed by June 2010, said Preston.

Whether the foundation support continues, she said the organization won’t vary from its commitment to “green” construction.

“We will continue to build sustainable homes, with or without this partnership,” Preston said.

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