Earlier today, a trio of Habitat volunteers turns to installing siding at “House #48, Deb & Tom Delaney, 108 First Ave. S. Photo by John Kubal/Register
• Larson Mfg. offers $270K in grants
BROOKINGS – Generosity, hard work and volunteerism.
Those three elements are key to the success of Habitat for Humanity.
Barbara Johnson, executive director for Brookings Area Habitat for Humanity, said "We house people, not cars. (We) build a simple, decent place to live so that people can afford to be homeowners."
Just recently that needed generosity has been especially evident here in Brookings, by way of grants from Larson Manufacturing of Brookings; the grants come in addition to the ongoing generosity of the Larson Family Foundation, which Johnson said "has been very generous to us. They are currently sponsoring half of one house and part of another house that we are building for this year."
Other philanthropic groups are helping cover the remaining cost of those two houses.
Here in Brookings, work is ongoing on local Habitat houses Nos. 48 and 49, and the foundation has been laid for No. 50.
"We will be going full blast on it once school starts," Johnson said, "because SDSU construction management is helping with that. We're basically a lab class for them." Funding for that house is still being sought.
A Larson Manufacturing grant will provide funding for future houses No. 51 and No. 52: $180,000 total, $90,000 per house. Supplementing that funding will be "in-kind" and "volunteer" contributions of labor that have their value calculated in dollars.
Priming, caulking, painting
Habitat is primarily a builder of houses; it is also presever of what is already standing. Johnson noted that a second and third part of the Larson Manufacturing grants is that "we need to do approximately 22 'Brush With Kindness' projects totaling $90,000."
First comes some landscaping work so volunteers "can get at the house," she added.
"Then we wash the house down so our paint will stick. And we scrape it and prime it and caulk all the windows, and then paint."
Other minor preparations include replacement of water-damaged or rotted boards. The home owner pays for the cost of the materials used in those minor repairs. Paint is donated by Valspar, a corporation that manufactures paint.
In addition to the 22 Brush projects, Habitat is obligated to take on "five major projects that need greater repair." As a "for instance," Johnson cited "someone whose whole house needs siding and new soffits."
She added, "We're really wondering about roofs. It's hard to get volunteers to go up the heights, even a two-story house to paint it."
Elderly, disabled and low income are the usual requirements for people wanting to be recipients of Brush work.
All the work undertaken using the present grant funding must be completed by December 2013.
"In order to do that many projects, we're going to have to really get going here really fast," Johnson said.
Additionally, this $90,000 grant has to be matched two-for-one: $180,000. "In-kind and volunteer hours" can be counted.
"Last year we had about 7,200 hours of recorded volunteer time for our affiliate," Johnson said. "So even if we take 3,000 and multiply it by $20 per hour, there's $60,000 of the grant match right there." For this new round of projects, Johnson anticipates about 3,000 volunteer and in-kind hours.
"We will still need to match it with other grants, cash donations and pledges. That will come from the local community: individuals, businesses and corporations."
The houses under construction are all within the city limits. But the local Habitat affiliate can reach out into all of Brookings County. There are a total of 13 Habitat affiliates in South Dakota.
'Don't get tax dollars'
The U.S. Deparment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) does give Habitat for Humanity funding for the purchase of land and infrastructure. That money is available locally. But that is the sole extent of government dollars.
"Otherwise it's all private money," Johnson said. "A lot of people think that Habitat is government subsidized. We don't get any tax dollars."
She added that Habitat and its homeowners contribute tax dollars. Habitat pays contractor's excise tax; homeowners pay real-estate tax.
"We don't give away houses; people buy them. We just don't put a profit on them. We charge zero percent interest." Habitat buyers can opt for 20- or 30-year loans; but zero-interest is not an open-ended promise for the long-range future.
Johnson explained, "We've been able to do that because the gifts keep coming so that we can keep building. At some point in time we may need to start charging our homeowners interest on those loans, so that we keep the doors open and give more people houses.
"But that's not in the near future, because the people of Brookings County continue to be generous with their donations. We've tightened our belts a lot; we're not building eight houses a year anymore." Additionally, Habitat houses are not extravagant.
On average a Habitat house is about 1,100 square feet, with three bedrooms. It will usually have a crawl space in lieu of a basement and ordinarily will not have a garage.
"Habitat does not want us to put a garage on, unless we absolutely positively have to to meet covenants or building codes," Johnson said. Neighborhood covenants can add extra thousands of dollars in costs: "Most of the developments want you to have not a flat front on the house and want you to have more than one roof line."
Anyone interested in finding out more about Habitat for Humanity, including eligibility for a Habitat house, can call 697-2540 or the Habitat ReStore at 697-5900 or log on to www.brookingshabitat.org. An application for a Habitat house can be found online.
Contact John Kubal at firstname.lastname@example.org.