Children played under overcast skies Friday afternoon as three families prepared to receive the keys to their brand-new Habitat for Humanity homes in a development on the southern edge of Deer Park.
The dedication topped off a two-week Blitz Build that started June 6. During such events, hundreds of volunteers gather together to build as much as possible. It’s something that Habitat for Humanity-Spokane has done for the last 21 years.
Volunteers were still hard at work Friday afternoon but came down from the roof of a new twin home to watch the ceremony. “Today we celebrate the end of our Blitz Build and three new Habitat homeowners,” said CEO Michelle Girardot.
She thanked a lengthy list of sponsors who she said have continued to support Habitat even in the face of soaring construction costs and material shortages. She noted that the Habitat development in Deer Park has provided housing for 80 families.
Among the families receiving keys Friday were Alex and Valentina Semivrazhnov and their 9-year-old daughter, Eliana. He spoke briefly to the gathered crowd to express his thanks. “We were waiting for this moment for a long time,” he said.
Semivrazhnov said he and his wife used to own a home, but he got sick and couldn’t work his job as a long-haul trucker. The family got behind in their mortgage and lost their house. It was at that point that the family moved in with Valentina Semivrazhnov’s parents.
“Now, they can go free, finally,” Semivrazhnov said. “They gave us a roof over our head for seven years.”
The couple came to the United States in 1997 from Mariupol, Ukraine, which has been the site of many battles in the country’s current war with Russia. Semivrazhnov asked the gathered crowd to pray for his former country.
“We are blessed that instead of war and destruction, we have peace and a new home,” he said.
After receiving their keys, the couple made their way up their driveway to their new home. They paused in front of the door to pose for pictures taken by family members before stepping inside. As they began exploring, Valentina Semivrazhnov reached toward a door in the kitchen. “I have a new pantry!” she said as she swung it open.
It was a scene being repeated in two other homes next door and there will be more to come in the next few years. Girardot said Habitat is usually able to build between eight and 10 units a year. “At the finale, it will be 114 units,” she said.
Deer Park is home to one of two Habitat developments, with the other in Airway Heights. Girardot said the land in Deer Park was purchased at a discount in 2007, though it took a few years before the first house was built.
“We’ve had this land for a long time,” she said. “It just took a long time to get up and running.”
The Habitat for Humanity program has been helping families obtain affordable housing in Spokane County for 45 years and there’s a waiting list for families hoping to get their own piece of the American dream. In order to qualify, families need to make less than 80% of the area’s median income and volunteer building other people’s homes for at least 250 hours. They’re also required to attend classes on home ownership.
Girardot said that helping families find affordable housing is more important now than ever in the face of rising home prices and apartment rent. “We need way more multifamily (housing) for affordable home ownership,” she said.
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