Published: Sunday, June 17, 2012, 5:00 AM
By Linda Chojnacki
Builders across the nation reached out to build 209 homes in eight days last week for Habitat for Humanity’s 2012 Home Builders Blitz.
According to Habitat for Humanity, local professional builders and Habitat for Humanity affiliates worked closely to organize all aspects of the building process. This included securing subcontractors and suppliers, fundraising and seeking donations of materials.
“This is the third time that Habitat International hosted the Home Builders Blitz,” said Rochelle Fisher, president and chief executive officer of Habitat for Humanity of Summit County. “There are 1,500 Habitat affiliates in the United States and 100 participated in this year’s event.”
With the help of local building professionals in communities across the U.S., the Home Builders Blitz program supports Habitat’s vision of “a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
In Northeast Ohio, Rembrandt Homes, Metis Construction Services, and Dutch Heritage Homes partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Summit County to create homes for three deserving families. The homes were built on Ardella Street in Akron, and the land was donated by Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority. The majority of the labor and building supplies were donated or heavily discounted to make this project a reality.
“It was a way for us as builders, even though we’ve had this downturn, to give back. It means a lot that it’s a local community right here in Akron. I was excited to do it and my subs got onboard. We wanted to show that we are still here as builders and alive and kicking,” said Steve Miller, president of the Home Builders Association serving Portage and Summit Counties and owner of Rembrandt Homes.
“We are actually a commercial builder, but we decided to participate because we were very touched by what Habitat for Humanity does,” stated Steven Brandle, vice president of Metis Construction Services. “Rebuilding the city and bringing people back to the city is very important.”
“For Dutch Heritage Homes, it gave us the opportunity to give back. The economy has been tough over the past few years, and we have been fortunate to be able to get through it. We really appreciated the mission and goal of Habitat for Humanity, and we felt that we aligned with it really well. When the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance,” stated John McCarty with Dutch Heritage Homes. “It’s been our first Habitat experience and we are really happy with it. Our trades and vendors came onboard and it’s gone very smoothly.”
“The three builders and the hundred-plus subcontractors and suppliers who were involved never cease to amaze me with their generosity in spite of the fact that they have faced some very tough times. If the cause is good, they are always the first to step up,” stated Carmine Torio, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association serving Portage and Summit Counties.
Fisher would like to thank the builders and all of their contractors.
“These builders and contractors have been involved with Habitat for Humanity over the years. Steve from Rembrandt has actually taken trips with his church to Habitat work sites on the Gulf Coast.
“There’s been a ton of moving pieces and parts throughout the project. At the beginning of the week, we had tons of trucks and 90 workers on-site doing the framing. The city then shut down the street to install the water service. We then had drywall and painting days. It’s been a ton of activity, and everyone has worked together as such a phenomenal team,” she said.
In total, nearly 400 people stepped up to complete the project.
According to Fisher, all three builders followed a master plan selected by Habitat for Humanity.
“We only have about seven or eight different floor plans that we build. So whether it’s a single- or two-story home, they are all the same,” indicated Fisher.
“The Akron homes are a 1,050 square-foot three-bedroom ranch with a kitchen, living room, dinette, full basement, and a detached garage,” said Miller. “We’ve blended a lot of energy efficiency into the homes. We have upgraded insulation in the walls and ceilings, and we also insulated the entire perimeter of the basement on the outside and inside. The basements run the full length of the homes and can be easily finished. The homes will actually meet Energy Star’s rating.”
According to Fisher, the homes are appraised around $80,000. She feels that the homes will be a definite asset in improving the overall home values in the neighborhood.
“It will also have a positive impact on the neighborhood comparables and will help appraisals,” said Torio.
The most immediate impact is the curb appeal, according to McCarty. “The street is a much nicer place to live thanks to these homes.”
“I can’t say enough about what our guys have done to build these homes. They have stayed until 9 p.m. every night to get these homes built in one week. They have been great and it’s been very touching!” Brandle stressed.
Fisher would like to thank all of the suppliers who supported the project.
“All of the lighting fixtures were donated by Kichler Lighting and Wolff Bros. The siding was donated by Tapco. The cabinets, countertops, windows, and doors were made possible through Carter-Jones Lumber, Therma-Tru Doors, Andersen Windows, and Palmer-Donavin. Whirlpool provided all of the appliances.
Brothers Grimm will be doing all of the landscaping,” she said.
The residents give back
According to Miller, all Habitat for Humanity home recipients actually purchase the homes with a no-interest 30-year mortgage. The financing is provided through Habitat for Humanity.
“With property taxes and homeowner’s insurance, the monthly payments are less than $500 a month,” indicated Fisher. They are required to put sweat equity into the home as a part of the agreement.
“The families help to build their own home, as well as the homes of other families. They must take part in a full year of homeowner education on home maintenance, homeownership, credit, budgeting, nutrition, and more. They can volunteer in our ReStore as a part of their sweat equity, or they can do non-profit hours with another non-profit or their church. Their children can earn hours for good grades, or they can get involved in different advocacy and educational events,” Fisher stated
“The failure rate for the program is less than three percent, which is phenomenal,” Fisher proudly said.
According to Fisher, Habitat for Humanity of Summit County currently has 20 families who are waiting for a home or who have selected a home. The proud recipients of the three Akron homes built as a part of the Blitz are:
- Rembrandt’s home: A single mother with three children.
- Metis’ home: The homeowner is currently being determined.
- Dutch Heritages’ home: A minister and his wife.
Home recipients must meet several criteria to be eligible for a home.
“They have to fall between 30 to 80 percent of HUD guidelines for area median income for Summit County. For a family of four, income ranges from $20,000 at the low end to $56,000 at the high end. We have teachers, nurses, construction workers, bank tellers, and more in our program. Many are single moms. If you would like to learn more about our home program, visit www.hfhsummitcounty.org.”
“HBA members got involved because they were helping deserving people who needed a decent home. I know it was very important for the builders to meet the families and not just build a home that would later be sold by Habitat,” indicated Torio.
“When you are providing an affordable home for a great family, that’s really great,” Miller said. “We got to meet the woman and her three children who were selected for our home; that made it meaningful. It put a face to our project and gave meaning to why we were all donating our time. What could be better!”
Dutch Heritages’ ranch will become home to Pastor Mark Ward and his wife Barbara. Pastor Ward ministers the congregation at Zion Church right next to the home.
“They currently live quite a distance away from the church. With the active Men’s Club at the church, they are really trying to make an impact in the neighborhood. They are also working with programming over at Joy Park Homes, the Akron Metropolitan Housing complex behind the church. It’s very heartwarming to find a pastor and his wife who want to live in the house and neighborhood in order to make a difference in the community,” indicated Fisher.
“This will provide stability to the neighborhood, which is a plus for the neighborhood in terms of the human factor,” Torio said.
Fisher shared a touching story about Barbara Ward. “The Pastor said that Barbara insisted that she needed a second stove in the basement because she is a pound cake baker extraordinaire! She bakes about 20 pound cakes a week for people who are ill, as well as church and family members.”
The homes were dedicated last Friday, and the residents should be able to move in at the beginning of July.
Other Akron HBA initiatives
Miller proudly boasted about the Akron HBA’s commitment to reach out and help the community.
“This year, we did some cabins for a camp for disabled children in Green. We also did the Rebuilding Together Project, which involved refurbishing homes to make them more livable,” he said.
“The Home Builders Blitz was really a great opportunity! If you have an opportunity to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, take advantage of it. You’ll really enjoy it!” said McCarty.
“The Akron HBA does a lot of great things inside the community,” he said. “This was a natural fit. It brought builders together and showed that we are a team that can achieve something greater than what we do on a daily basis.”