First Habitat Home Going Up
Habitat is pounding away in Robbins.
It has been a long time since Mayor Mickey Brown and others from the First Baptist Church were repairing an elderly woman's deteriorating house. Brown promised land and support would be found for Habitat in Robbins.
Saturday morning, Brown, Police Chief Danny Brown (no relation to the mayor), neighbors and others showed up to help Jeannette Johnson nail together and lift into place the walls of her new home, the first Habitat house in Robbins.
She was beaming with joy.
With the mayor on one end and the chief of police on the other, two-by-fours were quickly hammered into the various shapes needed for framing doorways, windows, and corners. My job was making headers out of two-by-eights, sandwiching foamed plastic insulation between two of them, and nailing it all together, four rows of three nails from each side.
Results: one stack of headers and one slightly sore arm. I moved over to help frame.
Volunteers were nailing studs to top and bottom plates as walls took shape on the flat platform of Johnson's foundation. Habitat employs professional workers to prepare each site for the volunteer/homeowner partnership that builds the houses from there up.
They have a staff of experienced supervisors who double as teachers, though a lot of volunteers know about as much about construction and building codes as they do. Some are retirees with a lifetime in the trade. Some have built their own homes and are now happily helping others build theirs.
It was a cool, crisp day.
A pile of lumber and a box of cement-coated nails waited for us to help three families build a different future. That hardware had been on its way for years, too.
Coming to Robbins
Habitat opened a once-a-week office in the Northern Moore Family Resource Center to make application easier. To apply, family income has to be between 20 and 55 percent of annual median income for the county, based on family size. A family of three would have an income somewhere between $14,700 and $29,500 a year.
Applications came in. Finally, these three families qualified.
Their three home sites are across the street from where American Growler is preparing its new factory. All the new home owners were busy at work.
Johnson and her son will live in the first of three house. Gwen Caddell and her two children will own the second, and Abraham Hernandez and Yessi Catalan will move into the third, with their three children.
Nobody is giving them their homes. They are home owners. They buy them with a combination of mortgage payments and a unique form of contribution Habitat that founder Millard Fuller called "sweat equity."
Every family will put in 300 hours of work for each adult. They also will attend 12 home ownership classes.
"Sometimes they need to repair their credit," says Habitat Executive Director Elizabeth Cox. "We teach them how."
It takes between six and 10 months to build a Habitat house. So far, Habitat for Humanity of Moore County has sold 129 homes to low-income families. It doesn't give them away. Habitat home owners pay about $325 a month to cover principal, insurance, and taxes.
"We sell homes with zero-interest, no-profit mortgages," Cox says.
Habitat describes its mission as "Building houses -- building communities -- building lives."
When Richmond County had trouble getting a Habitat chapter going, they called Cox for help. The Moore County chapter is now building in Richmond County as well, with construction under way on nine houses in various stages of construction there and in Southern Pines, Pinebluff, Carthage, and now -- at long last -- Robbins.
The average cost last year was $66,500 including land and all house costs. It doesn't include money for staff or chapter administration. That is all raised separately.
Each house has not one, but three mortgages. Homeowners pay off one of them. The others are forgiven as monthly payments come in. One goes away after five years, the other continues for their full 20 year term of the base mortgage.
"This protects our homeowners from predatory lenders," Cox said. "As soon as they move in, the telephone calls start, but once they find out they can't push these people into debt and take the house, they stop."
The morning went quickly, but the highlight is always the look on the faces of three families as each framed wall rises.
"On three, lift hip high," a supervisor calls out. "Onetwothree! Now, again on three, all the way up."
He counted again. The framed wall was lifted up, braced, checked for plumb and spiked down. We realize we are in this for the long haul. There won't be a Saturday morning in Robbins for a while without us. And we need more. Many hands make quick work, and no experience is needed. Brown promised more people next week.
I'll be there.
At noon, we broke for lunch. Other volunteers prepared food. Sometimes it is a church, sometimes a civic organization.
On Saturday morning, people from Brothers of the Horizon come over from Mid-Atlantic Star Party (MASP) where they had been helping fix fried fish dinners for stargazers. Improvised tables were set up and spread.
We paused for grace and thanks.
John Chappell can be reached at 783-5841 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story