Wake Habitat leads national builders’ blitz

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The first week in June, 27 Raleigh-area homebuilders and their subcontractors, vendors and suppliers will team up with Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to build 20 houses for low-income families that will be first-time homeowners.

The “builders blitz,” the third for Wake Habitat, this year has spawned the first-ever national homebuilders blitz by Habitat for Humanity International.

The national effort has enlisted more than 1,000 homebuilders that will team up with their subcontractors, vendors and suppliers to build nearly 500 houses for low-income families served by roughly 140 Habitat affiliates throughout the United States.

With Habitat affiliates in Chatham, Durham and Orange counties planning to build a total of 13 houses during the blitz, the Triangle will be building more houses that week than Habitat affiliates in any other region of the United States, says Kevin Campbell, Apex-based director of the national effort for Habitat for Humanity International.

At an estimated average cost of $60,000 per house, including materials and labor, the national effort will add at least $25 million in Habitat housing, Campbell says.

Raleigh homebuilder Tom Gipson, who built his first Habitat house in 1991 and spearheaded the first Wake homebuilders blitz in 2002, is co-chairing this year’s Wake blitz with Mark Massengill of Mark Massengill Builders.

The two builders also have visited dozens of cities throughout the United States to recruit builders for the national effort, Massengill says.

“It’s a great way for the industry to get involved with affordable housing,” he says.

Each builder that participates in the blitz typically enlists nearly 100 volunteers from companies it works with, a strategy that Massengill says makes good philanthropic sense.

“It’s phenomenal what you can get if you challenge people who you help make a living,” he says.

After recruiting 12 homebuilders in its first blitz, Wake Habitat built 24 houses in its second homebuilders blitz in 2003, says Joyce Watkins King, director of development and communications.

Each family that will own one of the houses built in this year’s blitz, she says, will contribute at least 250 hours of “sweat equity” in building the house.

The houses will represent the first phase of a new neighborhood, known as Dowling Ridge, that is just off Poole Road near the Beltline and eventually will include 86 houses, 36 of which will be for Habitat homeowners.

Wake Habitat, formed in 1986, has built 270 houses overall and is on track to build its 300th house this year, when it celebrates 20th anniversary, King says.

A goal of builders participating in the Wake blitz is to cover most of the costs of the houses they are building through in-kind donations of labor and materials.

Major sponsor partners for the Wake blitz include the City of Raleigh, STOCK Building Supply, Mountain States Contractors, Home Builders Association of Raleigh-Wake County, Builders Mutual and Thomas Gipson Homes.

Concrete footings for the houses already have been poured by the General Contractors Association of Raleigh, and a variety of subcontractors will be laying the concrete-block or brick foundations, King says.

National major sponsor partners for the national blitz include building-supply manufacturers Whirlpool, Dow, Balspar Paints and Yale Locks, all of which already support all Habitat houses, and Kohler, Ferguson Enterprises, Masco, Rinnai, Certainteed and Weyerhaeuser.

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