October 10, 2010 in City

Habitat building 114 low-cost homes in Deer Park

Chelsea Bannach The Spokesman-Review
 

More than 100 local families now living in poverty will achieve the American dream next summer: They will become homeowners.

Habitat for Humanity Spokane broke ground Saturday on a 20-acre site in Deer Park, where volunteers will build 114 homes for families currently relegated to substandard housing.

“Rent assistance is a temporary solution for people who can’t afford their housing,” said Michone Preston, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Spokane. “Being able to offer people in poverty an opportunity to invest in real estate eliminates poverty by building a sustainable future.”

Teams of volunteers will begin working on the development’s infrastructure, such as sewers and streets, this winter. Families will start moving into the new homes, located at the south end of Deer Park near Dalton Road, in June.

The cost of the project is about $12 million, Preston said, and it’s funded largely by donations.

Each home requires 1,350 volunteer hours to build. Future homeowners must volunteer at least 500 hours and attend a series of workshops on homeownership, among other requirements.

“There is a certain pride they take in being able to build their own houses,” said volunteer Daniel Howe. “Working alongside them, you can share in that pride.”

The homes will feature energy-efficient windows, appliances, heating and cooling.

“Where we’re going to put our emphasis is in things that will pay the homeowner back in the long run,” said construction director Fred Johnston. “It’s a good return on investment for them.”

Habitat for Humanity provides an affordable mortgage payment not exceeding 30 percent of a family’s income, Preston said. The organization is able to keep mortgages affordable because the homes are built with volunteer labor and the organization does not make a profit.

To be eligible, candidates must make 25 percent to 60 percent of the median income in Spokane County.

Preston said Deer Park was chosen for the new neighborhood partly because of its poverty level. According to a housing market study of the city, nearly 40 percent of households within a mile of the site are income-qualifying.

“Habitat is always looking for land to build on in communities where there is need,” she said.

The organization purchases most building supplies locally, Preston said, which benefits local businesses. The development also means an increase in property tax revenue for the city.

But the benefits go beyond the bottom line, she said.

“The increased benefit to Deer Park is that 114 of their families that are currently living in poor housing get to move out and into a home that they own, that’s brand new and affordable.”

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