Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives: Much to Celebrate, More to Build

Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives
Much to Celebrate, More to Build

On August 14, in Knoxville Tenn. Habitat for Humanity dedicated its 200,000 home built worldwide. This house represents the one million people now living in Habitat homes they helped to build and are buying, or have already paid off.
And only 24 minutes after the Knoxville house dedication, the 200,001st house was dedicated in Kanyakumari, India. During the following week, four other homes were built. Volunteers from Armenia, El Salvador, Mexico, Uganda and the United States have been working alongside partner families and local volunteers to rebuild in the tsunami-ravaged area.
And, of course, there are more homes needed to be built. Through the support of its volunteers, Habitat's proven, self-help solution to the problem of substandard housing is helping to build a better world.
Builder Magazine just published its listing of the top 200 homebuilders in the United State for 2004. Habitat for Humanity is ranked 19th and is the only nonprofit builder on the list.
Habitat for Humanity of Washington County is busy at work also. Two homes were built this year in a three-day "blitz build." The event started with foundation in place, and by the end of the third day both structures had siding, windows, doors, and were under roof. Since that time the interiors have been worked on as volunteers and partner families had available time. The homes are scheduled to be dedicated and occupied by this fall.
One of these homes was constructed by the Women Build group of volunteers. This group is planning for the next house it will build. The group of women will start its planning and fundraising in 2006, with construction to begin in the spring of 2007.
The big issue facing Habitat for Humanity of Washington County's goals for future homes is the current cost of land. Land costs are going up, thus making it more difficult for Habitat to construct affordable homes. There is a great need now for more homes in Washington County. Habitat has families waiting for homes to be completed.
From 1996 to the beginning of 2004, the average cost of a home in our county increased $30,400. And it has continued to rise each year since. Also, the average rental has increased beyond affordability for low-income families. Housing costs are rising faster than wages, resulting in more families living in substandard housing, overcrowded conditions, or having to use income needed for food and medical needs in order to have a place to live.
Too often a low-income family finds a decent place to live but the cost is beyond the 30% of their gross pay, but they try to make it. Soon they find they can't make ends meet so they have to move to some substandard housing. The children often must change schools. They find themselves in strange, new neighborhoods. Just as they began to make friends, find mentors or feel secure they were uprooted and moved into a whole new scene. Sometimes this moving must occur more than once for a family. From this action other problems develop within the family and with the children. And the cycle goes on and on, but Habitat can help break that cycle.
Anyone with land to donate for a tax credit, or anyone willing to sell land to Habitat below market price and use the difference in a tax write-off, may contact Habitat at 301-791-9009.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.