ENTERPRISE — Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah held a wall raising ceremony on their 24th house in Southern Utah, the first to be built in Enterprise.
Habitat employees, volunteers and sponsors gathered at the property to celebrate a major milestone in the construction of the new home on Monday.
“The wall raising in Enterprise makes our 24th wall raising event at Habitat for Humanity in Southwest Utah,” Habitat’s Executive Director, Kayo Skandunas, told St. George News.
The people that went were present to volunteer and partner with Habitat “are the bread and butter of our organization,” he said.
Emily Thomas, the organization’s benefactor, was one of seven applicants who applied for the Habitat house in March. The organization received fewer applications for the Enterprise home than they have in other parts of Southern Utah, likely due to a lack of awareness of how the organization operates in that particular area.
Thomas currently commutes to her job at Albertsons in Washington City, and has for more than 15 years, she said, adding that she has lived in Enterprise for more than 20 years, and “would live nowhere else.”
For Thomas, the number of volunteers that participated in Monday’s event was “awesome.” She said she was surprised that so many people arrived to help and were actively working on the site at the same time.
Thomas said she is excited to be a homeowner.
“I am living the American dream,” she said.
The house is located on one of two properties that the nonprofit acquired in the Enterprise Valley View Estates and the walls raised during the ceremony were built and then transported to Enterprise after the foundation was laid.
The walls were constructed at Restore, the organization’s resell store on South Bluff Street, a space that allowed the walls to be built in a controlled environment where all of the supplies were on-site, making the building process much faster, Skandunas said.
Bike and Build, an organization that advocates for the need for affordable housing in thousands of communities across the country, helped build the walls in July. The organization also helped by raising money and awareness through service-oriented cycling trips that ultimately benefit housing projects. The organization strives to empower young adults and prepares them for a lifetime of service and civic engagement.
Marc Hatch, the project’s general contractor, said it was the first prefabricated home for Habitat.
“It is gratifying to have it all fit together,” he said.
Typically, raising the walls of the structure is a lengthier process, Skandunas said. This time, the walls delivered to the site in Enterprise Friday were raised quickly, as opposed to the standard practice of constructing each wall before it is raised, a process that is repeated multiple times until all of the exterior and interior walls are secured in place.
Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah has built 23 homes in the past 21 years, helping over 126 people become homeowners. Their purpose is to build safe, high-quality affordable housing for families in Washington County who are between 60% and 80% of the area’s median income.
Skandunas said that more than 40% of the residents in Washington County are overburdened by their house payment, which increases the need for affordable housing.
“It’s heartwarming and inspiring to see people band together to build hope and support members of our community who struggle with affordable housing options,” Skandunas added.
Iron County is also experiencing a housing crunch, he said, which is an issue Habitat hopes to address as they have plans to expand the operation to help families in need throughout the area.
“We are working on that expansion right now” he said.
Habitat has teamed up with an AmeriCorps – National Civilian Community Corps team, along with a number of St. George and Enterprise subcontractors that will take part in the construction process.
“All of a sudden you have sticks in the air. We go from horizontal plans to sticks in the air. All of a sudden the rooms become defined and you can see what the home is going to look like,” said Greg Sant, division manager for Perry Homes and Habitat board member.
Habitat homes are affordable, providing homeowners with a 0% interest rate and making it so they never have to pay more than 30% of their monthly income on living expenses, including their mortgage, utilities and insurance. Additionally, Habitat carries the loan so the payments are made directly to the organization, money that is then placed in a fund to be used to purchase property for future Habitat homes, Skandunas said.
House recipients are required to work 250 sweat-equity hours – volunteer hours which can be done on their own home or on another, which Thomas has been involved in since August.
“Many people think the houses are given to the family for free, which isn’t the case,” Thomas said.
Because Habitat’s presence in Enterprise has been limited until now, they have faced some challenges in recruiting volunteers and subcontractors in the area and continue to seek assistance from local companies and organizations that can take advantage of the opportunity for their employees to join Habitat on a volunteer build day to practice team building and to help families in need. The sponsorship opportunities will range from $1,500 to $10,000.
For Krista Longhurst, Habitat’s director of community involvement, Monday’s celebration was one of her favorite days.
“It’s so gratifying to go from nothing to a house in one day,” she said, adding it is also a time when volunteers, the homeowner, friends and family can come together.
The next Habitat home will most likely be in Hurricane, and Skandunas said he hopes their next project will be a unit property, providing homes for three or four families.
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