Habitat for Humanity of Columbus this week took the next big step toward ensuring that community residents in desperate need of new housing will have options for years to come.
On Monday, Habitat for Humanity of Columbus Executive Director Lori Peters and her work colleagues partnered with First Nebraska Bank to close on an approximately 4 acre, $150,000 plot of land located between 13th and 14th streets, and perpendicular to 41st Avenue. The site, being coined the New Hope Addition 2, calls for 18 homes in total.
At the current New Hope Addition site, nine homes have been built since the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity was jump-started in 2011. Now, there are seven plots remaining on the existing site. Two lots are taken up by the New Hope Addition Community Garden, and another site is dedicated as a workshop site.
That leaves four remaining plots. And while if need be the garden could be uprooted and the workshop site adjusted, that’s not what Peters and her colleagues want to do at this point. But, the need to expand is there, as through grants and private donations the nonprofit is near to the point where it can start doing two builds yearly.
The new plot had been on Habitat's radar for some time, but it was originally not pursued because it was believed that some major expenses – far outside the realm of what the nonprofit can afford – needed completing to comply with city standards and code. However, it was determined through a topography survey that sewer work could be completed in a less expensive way, which initially was one of the big deal-breakers.
“He (the contracted engineer) went to the city engineer (Rick Bogus) and he said, ‘can we do this?’ And the city engineer said, ‘yes,’” Peters said. “So it all came back around to Habitat’s board again and we have eliminated all the things that have made us vote ‘no’ before. So now we are ready to move ahead.”
It’s estimated that the plot will take about three years to get ready for building to take place. In the meantime, Habitat has kicked off its most recent Capital Campaign in an effort to secure $500,000 that will go toward doing everything necessary to the site to ensure it’s ready once the New Hope Addition reaches capacity.
“We need $500,000 to cover everything upfront, in full,” Peters said. “And if we get that, that will cut our lot prices in half. If we have to pay for the lot, they will be close to $30,000 in cost.”
That would be higher than at the current development, where homeowners purchase their plot for about $15,000 before buying their home for $110,000 - $115,000 by taking out an interest-free 30-year mortgage.
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Mike Smith, a former Habitat Board of Directors president and co-chair of the current Capital Campaign, said that he got involved with Habitat for Humanity Columbus about six or seven years ago.
“I’ve enjoyed it very much,” he said of his time serving the organization. “I started off being on a committee and then got asked to serve on the board where I was board president. The people you meet are just super, there’s a wide diversity and it’s just been really good…”
He said that reaching that half-million-dollar mark by the end of the year is a lofty goal, but that he believes it’s something that’s attainable because of all the support shown by the local and business community.
“We are going out on a bit of limb, but you have to have faith,” he said. “We want to hit it and do it right, but we also don’t want to drag it out, as well. And we just have a lot of faith in the people in this community, and also all the businesses who have been supporting us for almost 10 years."
Peters said that she is thrilled to have finally landed the piece of land that secures the nonprofit’s future. Ultimately, it’s just a good deal for the community as a whole, she added.
“I see the snowball effect, and how it affects the community – all the way across the board,” Peters said. “I have worked with three families now - I have been doing this almost two years - and the three families I’ve worked with all have concrete examples where they can tell me how their lives have changed because of it.
“So I truly believe that it impacts each of us because when their lives change, our lives change, through that snowball effect. Because there’s less cost in the school system or less reliance on government assistance. In some way, it affects us all.”
For information about how to give or get involved with Habitat or its Capital Campaign, those with questions are encouraged to email Peters at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.