Habitat builds community
by Anna Oakes
The organization has completed about 45 percent of the construction of a second house in its new GreenWood subdivision.
Located adjacent to Green Valley School, the 20.6-acre property will eventually include 18 to 22 Habitat for Humanity-built homes.
By 2010, Habitat had built 21 homes in Watauga County, but the search for affordable lots in the county was constant and challenging, as Watauga has some of the highest home and land prices in the state.
"We had chased land for so long," said Alex Hooker, executive director of Watauga Habitat.
Habitat began to search for a large tract of land on which to build multiple homes, and thanks to a significant donation from the Armfield Coffey estate, the organization secured the Green Valley tract and held a groundbreaking for the new subdivision in fall 2010.
Watauga County built the roads into the subdivision and donated some gravel, while architect Kimberly Marland has also donated her services to the project.
Construction of GreenWood's first home began in April 2011, and the dedication for homeowner Donna Harris and her daughter was held in April of this year. Hooker said construction took longer than expected because of some "growing pains."
By comparison, construction on the second home — for Brandy Boone and her three children — began shortly after the Harris dedication and is expected to be complete by late October.
The Harris home used insulated concrete forms for the lower part of the home and stick construction for the rest, with hemlock siding and a tin roof.
Hooker said the second home will use insulated concrete forms for the entire structure. ICFs are interlocking modular units that are stacked and then filled with concrete. ICFs are energy efficient and volunteer friendly, Hooker said.
Energy-efficient design is a major priority for Habitat for Humanity, which aims to reduce the costs of owning a home even after residents move in. An energy audit of the first GreenWood home estimated monthly energy bills — including heating and cooling — at $34 per month, Hooker said.
Habitat for Humanity homeowners pay for the cost of their home, but those costs are reduced through financial donations, donated materials, volunteer labor and in-kind services.
Applicants for Habitat homes must be in need due to overcrowded or substandard conditions, unreasonable housing costs in relation to gross income, physical need requirements or inability to obtain a conventional home loan.
Families must have an annual income between 30 and 60 percent of the Watauga County median income and demonstrate the ability to make monthly mortgage payments.
To receive the zero-interest loan for their homes through Habitat, applicants must also contribute between 250 and 500 hours of "sweat equity" in helping to build their homes.
Walmart made a $50,000 grant to the project for the construction of a community center, which will serve as a neighborhood gathering place with picnic tables, grills and other amenities, Hooker said.
GreenWood will be governed by a homeowners association.
"We're hoping that will get (homeowners) involved in their neighborhood," Hooker said.
Currently, Habitat for Humanity needs additional volunteers, financial donations and applicants for homes, he said.
For more information about Watauga County Habitat for Humanity, call (828) 268-9545 or visit http://www.wataugahabitat.org.