Archive for Thursday, February 26, 2004

Habitat comes to Baldwin

Family considers house ‘opportunity of a lifetime’

February 26, 2004

Three years ago, Diane Kennedy and her family could have owned their own house in Lawrence. But Kennedy, who has lived in Baldwin most of her life, didn't want to leave the town where she had been raised, so she chose to wait.

Her waiting paid off. After two and a half years of searching, Habitat for Humanity has finally located a lot in town to build Baldwin's first Habitat home -- which will be built specifically for Kennedy and her children, 16-year old Randi, 14-year-old Ryan and 10-year-old Tyler.

"I knew it would be a long wait, but I wanted to live in Baldwin," she said. "This is the opportunity of a lifetime. My kids and I truly do feel blessed and honored for this opportunity."

Habitat for Humanity -- with the help of churches, organizations and other volunteers -- partners with families in need to build affordable housing. More than 50 Habitat houses have been built in Lawrence, and Eudora has seen the construction of one house.

Partner families are required to contribute 225 hours of what Lilley called sweat equity toward Habitat. At least 50 hours of hands-on work must be contributed to the organization before construction even begins on their own homes, and at least another 150 hours of sweat equity must be on their own homes.

"It isn't a giveaway," said Jean Lilley, executive director for Lawrence Habitat for Humanity. "It is one of the harder ways to get affordable housing."

Once a house is completed, Lilley said, Habitat enters a 20-year, no-interest mortgage with the home owner with affordable monthly payments.

She said Kennedy and her family were selected more than two years ago to partner with the organization, but until recently the only available sites for the construction of Habitat homes were in Lawrence.

"She's been extremely patient," Lilley said.

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Finding property within Habitat's price range, Lilley said, was difficult in Baldwin.

"There's been a lot of construction, which sets the property rates high," she said.

But a suitable lot was eventually found in the 1400 block of High Street. Volunteers began clearing the lot Tuesday.

Lilley said the nail drive for the three-bedroom house is tentatively set for the first of April. She said Habitat has not secured a building permit yet, and is currently working with the city to determine whether permit fees can be waived.

She said Habitat is anticipating a July completion date on the Kennedys' house.

Though construction has yet to begin, she said, a number of organizations, banks and businesses have contributed to the project, including First United Methodist Church, which is raising $20,000 to help with the construction of the house.

"We do have a lot of support in the community of Baldwin," she said. "We're real excited about getting started."

She said Habitat will continue to look for support from Baldwin throughout the duration of the project.

"The community will certainly be invited to come in and work," she said. "We try to utilize as many volunteers as much as we can."

Kennedy said she appreciates the help her family has already received on the project.

"It's exciting in itself the whole community is behind me and willing to pitch in," she said.

"I just can't say how truly blessed we are, and we're thankful for the opportunity," she said. "We're just truly grateful."

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