Work could begin soon on three Habitat for Humanity homes off Canterwood
In 2010, Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity bought 1.2 acres of land near St. Anthony Hospital in Gig Harbor. The nonprofit planned to build affordable housing for local families on the plot off Canterwood Boulevard.
The project has been largely at a standstill until this year due to budget issues, said Sherrana Kildun, chief philanthropy officer for Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity. Pierce County required construction of a road and a retaining wall, adding to the cost and the timeline. Habitat’s plans shifted again as it sought ways to limit noise from nearby Highway 16.
But construction could start soon — perhaps late July or early August — on the three-home development. A family is already on board for the first home. The other two are available for qualifying families.
Chapel Hill Church is a sponsor
Families who have a maximum gross income of up to 80 percent of the area median income are eligible to apply for a Habitat home. The calculation is based on household size. For a family of four in our area, the maximum annual income for qualifying families would be $81,200. (For two of the homes in the Gig Harbor neighborhood, the eligibility standard is 50 percent of area median income, or about $50,000; but 80 percent is the standard for Pierce County Habitat projects.)
“It will be a beautiful neighborhood at the bottom of a hill surrounded by trees and grass,” Kildun said.
Sponsors help with costs to bring the price of the home into an affordable range for first-time homebuyers. Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church is the sponsor of one of the three Canterwood homes, Kildun said.
Chapel Hill sees a great need for affordable housing, said Chandra Hallam, local outreach coordinator for the church. The church committed the $75,000 needed to sponsor the home.
In addition to meeting the financial qualifications, families who purchase Habitat for Humanity homes must go through a homebuyer education program and donate hours toward the build of their home and another recipient’s home.
Habitat for Humanity volunteers
A small army of volunteers joins the homeowner family on the construction project. For the Canterwood Boulevard homes, two of those volunteers will be Gig Harbor residents Mark and Carolyn MacLeod, who have volunteered with the organization since the late 1980s.
Carolyn is a retired registered nurse who worked in the neonatal intensive care unit of Tacoma General Hospital. Mark worked for 39 years in international transportation and sales, and will soon retire from his second job as the facilities director for St. Nicolas Church and school in Gig Harbor.
“Most of us are really invested in it, and it’s part of our everyday lives now,” Carolyn said. “It’s fun to see people I’ve worked with in years past, and it’s a real pleasure to go out and do it.”
The couple feels strongly that affordable housing is a need in the area. By providing a hand up, not a handout, they said Habitat for Humanity helps make communities stronger.
“It’s important if you want society to prosper as a healthy community, where people are safe, and can be good neighbors,” Carolyn said.
College students and Habitat veterans
Mark has seen tremendous changes in how Habitat homes come together. While in the beginning he swung a hammer, these days you won’t find many of them on a work site.
“It’s more efficient now with new equipment, but it couldn’t get done without the volunteerism,” he said. “We have college kids that come during spring break every year, from all over the country, who will pay their own way to come to a Habitat site.”
The program requires homeowners to donate 250 hours to their home and someone else’s. Carolyn said some want to keep paying it forward.
“One of the neat things that warms your heart is more than one time we’d be building a house, and one of the original homeowners from 10 years earlier will show up on the job site and help out,” Carolyn said.
Now that they are both retired, they said they will likely spend more time on the build sites, and possibly do some work internationally with the organization.
“They call us the weekday regulars, which means we know enough to be dangerous,” Mark joked. “There are a lot of mentors who taught me stuff, and it’s fun. They trust you to take a crew and do a job, because you know enough to get it done. It’s all about helping each other. “
Carolyn said she’s learned so many skills over the years, including spackling and using a palm nailer.
Home building is just one way to volunteer, they said. There are other ways to help, and all are just as important. “There’s a place for everybody,” Mark said.
‘It’s totally fun’
Another Gig Harbor resident, Lisa Eul, has been volunteering for more than 20 years. She said she has learned all sorts of skills that have helped her as a homeowner, and that she has made friends over the years.
“You learn something every time you go, whether it’s putting on a roof, drywall, tile, or flooring,” she said. “We can’t do plumbing or electrical, but pretty much everything else. The people who work for Habitat are amazingly patient, and they help you learn.
“It’s totally fun, and I’m serious. It’s so much fun, not just because you’re helping others, but because you get to see the progress, and you socialize with people. I can’t say enough good things about Habitat for Humanity. The volunteers and supervisors are awesome.”
Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organization, but works with people and organizations of any belief, Kildun said.