For Wanda Savoy, the new, bright-green house on Georgia Street is a blessing.
The 1,200-square-foot home for Savoy and her two children is the 11th home Habitat for Humanity’s Lafayette chapter has built in the McComb-Veazey neighborhood in north Lafayette, and it’s among the 100 homes the organization has built in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes since 1992.
On Tuesday evening, Habitat celebrated that landmark in a joint ceremony recognizing four family homes completed this year: the Savoy home on Georgia Street, the two other homes on South Orange Street and another home on South Magnolia Street.
“Our board has committed to focus redevelopment in the core neighborhoods in Lafayette,” said Melinda Taylor, executive director of Lafayette Habitat for Humanity.
The organization is focusing for the next few years on the McComb-Veazey area, Taylor said.
“We’re so grateful,” said Virginia Jones, a lifelong McComb-Veazey resident who chairs the neighborhood association. “The partnership helps us put up new homes, and it makes everything more beautiful.”
Through Habitat, which serves as both contractor and lender for home buyers, low-income households are granted zero-interest mortgages. Volunteers build the home over several months with the help of a construction director, two on-site supervisors and the homeowners themselves, who are required to put in 300 to 450 hours of “sweat equity” while the house is under construction. A team of architectural consultants helps design a floor plan that’s cost-efficient and sustainable.
The new homeowners also take a series of classes in home buyer education, such as financial planning, that “help people move from being tenants to being owners,” Taylor said.
The first homeowner approved for the program in 1992 has since paid off the house note and bought a new house.
The homeowner, Taylor said, “actually did what, ideally, Habitat is structured to do: to let people build equity so they can use that to move up.”
Una Hargrave started the local organization in 1992 after Hurricane Andrew, when she was working in disaster relief for the Catholic Diocese of Lafayette.
“It opened my eyes to how poor people were,” Hargrave said.
It took the organization a year to build its first house, Hargrave said. Now, it’s building seven to 10 new houses every year.
“We challenged Habitat to up their game, and they’ve done it,” District 4 Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said.
More than 3,000 volunteers participated in the home-building process last year, Taylor said.
Sixteen high school students from across the U.S. this year volunteered with the group from July 28 to Aug. 5 as part of the international organization’s “Learn and Build Experience,” through which teenagers ages 16 to 18 work on a home. And more than 150 students participated in Habitat’s “Collegiate Challenge” in 2014, with 10 to 20 students participating at a time, Taylor said.
Because donations are a part of the collegiate program, Habitat received more than $20,000 last year collected by the student volunteers, Taylor said.
“We’re expecting something similar this year,” Taylor said.
Funds also come from the ReStore, Habitat’s retail center on East Pinhook Road, which sells donated building materials and home goods at a discounted price.
Lafayette Consolidated Government’s Community Development department, which focuses in part on making affordable housing accessible to Lafayette residents, also provides annual funding for the program through U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grants.
Habitat has received almost $1 million in grant funds over the past two years, Community Development Director Patricia Leyendecker said.
Next-door to Savoy’s home, another house — Habitat’s first two-story home in the area — is in its framing stages. And a few blocks away, near East Pinhook Road and Magnolia Street, Habitat owns 13 lots for a future “pocket” neighborhood.
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