Minneapolis: Habitat for Humanity may build in Holland neighborhood

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Neighbors need not only to approve, but welcome and help design a Habitat for Humanity home, to convince the City of Minneapolis to convey the property it would sit on. At least, that’s how it’s playing out in the 2500 block of Washington Street NE.

Habitat uses mostly volunteer labor and donated materials to build homes for families earning between 30 and 50 percent of the area median income, “bus drivers, nurse’s aides, hardworking people who keep our economy moving,” said Habitat’s land acquisition manager Chad Dipman.

He visited the Holland Neighborhood Improvement Association (HNIA) meeting Sept. 13, explaining that the build wouldn’t take place until summer 2014. Members of the HNIA board had contacted Habitat in August 2011, then neighborhood representatives worked their way through the five vacant lots in the neighborhood.

One, at 2015 Jackson, would have been large enough for an accessible home, according to a neighborhood newsletter. “We did not find any neighborhood support and some residents were against the idea, hoping to see the lot redeveloped into an alley.”

Dipman first met with HNIA in February and again on June 5. By then, they had flyered the area and held a meeting at a resident’s home on the 2500 block of Washington. Two other possibilities had dropped off due to opposition or lack of interest. But here, the group chose a house plan which can be modified further if neighbors would like.

“Private developers don’t seem to be able to pull this off these days,” said resident Dan Scoggins, later commenting that “we have to show a quality of process to the city. They want everybody to be happy.”

Has the family been chosen yet? No. Each year, about 1,000 people attend orientation sessions, 500 apply, 300 qualify and 55 to 60 houses are built each year in the Twin Cities area. Habitat is using a new way of matching families to homes, Dipman said. Those who are in the eligible pool get a list of the houses that Habitat is about to start building within two to three months. They can express interest in none, one, or more. If there’s more than one family interested in a house, a committee helps decide. Preference is given to people already living in the area, if they want to stay in a neighborhood.

As always, the chosen new homeowners put in 300 to 500 hours of sweat equity into their own home or help with someone else’s. They also take classes on how to manage a house. They have a simple interest mortgage paid to Habitat. Sometimes second and third mortgages make up the difference between what they can pay and the home’s appraised value; those gap mortgages are forgiven after 30 years if they are still in the home. If they want to move, Habitat buys back the home.

Habitat’s latest project in Northeast is the Old Third Townhomes, built near Claire Housing at Central and Third avenues NE. They also built a home in Audubon recently and two on Stinson Boulevard in the Waite Park neighborhood several years ago.

Next steps: Dipman said he would get the Holland office a list of Habitat homes built in Northeast in the last five to 10 years. Patty Kelley, two doors down from 2523 Washington, said the neighbors who haven’t yet come to meetings support it but they aren’t going to get on a design committee. So, the group will seek others to play that role.

In previous Habitat builds, volunteers from all over the metro area contributed time. At the Stinson build, Northeast volunteers helped in particular with landscaping around both homes and grading the drainage area between the two homes.

Holland contacts are phone 612-781-2299 and dan@HNIA.org or Sean@HNIA.org.