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Habitat building more, adding services

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Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte is on a roll.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, Habitat generated enough revenue from selling donated building materials, furniture and appliances at its new ReStore to finance construction of nine new houses.

Under a new initiative it launched, it also repaired 12 houses owned by people who are not Habitat homeowners.

And it has begun construction of its first townhome project.

“There’s a lot of change in the air and challenges we’re facing,” says Bert Green, executive director.

Formed in 1983, Charlotte’s Habitat affiliate has built 810 houses, including 66 last year in Charlotte and another 66 in El Salvador.

Habitat, which operates with an annual budget of $15 million, aims to increase its production this year to 70 houses in Charlotte and another 70 in El Salvador, where it has begun developing streets, curbs, gutters, street lights and other infrastructure for a model community in the province of Santa Ana.

After opening its first ReStore on Wilkinson Boulevard in 1997, Habitat in February 2006 opened its second ReStore, on Wendover Road near Monroe Road.

The two stores generated $2.5 million in revenue in the fiscal year ended June 30 and, in August, each posted its highest revenue ever, says Green.

Now, the Habitat board has asked the staff to develop plans for a third store that Green says could open in 2009 or more likely in 2010.

“Ultimately, we’d like to run five ReStores in the city,” he says.

The two ReStores generate 22 percent of the organization’s annual budget, which also counts on contributions for 42 percent, mortgage payments for 42 percent, in-kind donations for 9 percent, and other sources for the remainder.

With Habitat either foreclosing on or taking a deed in lieu of foreclosure on only 3.9 percent of the mortgages it has provided to homeowners since 1983, the organization has been able to borrow against its mortgage pool for new construction, Green says.

In addition to construction, Habitat this year launched a “Critical Home Repair” ministry that works with very low-income, long-time homeowners whose homes need major structural repairs.

Eventually, Green says, Habitat aims each year to be serving 100 families in Charlotte through construction of new homes and repairs to existing homes, compared to 78 this year, while also building the same number of new homes in El Salvador as it builds in Charlotte.

Habitat’s first townhome project, which it is developing in North Charlotte on Drury Drive off Craighead Avenue, will be a four-unit complex.

And Habitat has acquired 32 lots to build townhomes in the Cityside development at The Plaza and Eastway Drive in Northeast Charlotte.

Serving families of three with annual income ranging from $17,350 to $34,750, and families of four with annual income ranging from $19,300 to $38,650, Habitat has seen the biggest growth in demand from Vietnamese families, especially Montagnard, many of whom moved to Charlotte through the assistance of Catholic Social Services.

Habitat, which already uses energy-efficient construction materials and systems in building its houses, now plans to launch a major green-building initiative and undertake more real-estate development by buying raw land and adding infrastructure.

And to celebrate its 25th anniversary, Habitat on Sept. 10 teamed up with Bank of America to build a house in 25 hours in the Reid Park neighborhood in West Charlotte, and has launched a campaign to encourage people to make $25 donations.

“We’re going to keep our nose to the grindstone,” Green says, “and keep pumping on.”

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