First Habitat home in Kenosha nears completion


BY JOHN KREROWICZ
jkrerowicz@kenoshanews.com
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He might not be skilled in carpentry, but Jose Vega is willing to wield a hammer to help complete his new Kenosha home.

“I’m not a handy guy, but when they tell me to do something and show me how, I’m more than willing to put my hours in,” he said.

The Vega family, now renting a mobile home in Pleasant Prairie, will be the first to move into a home constructed through the Habitat for Humanity Kenosha chapter.

The family — wife Zenaida and children Angela, 13, Luis, 15 and Maria, 19 — are assisting, as required by Habitat, as a way to instill pride in their home and help keep costs down.

Cheaper by the dozen

Labor is about half the cost of a home, so the use of about two dozen volunteers at the Vega residence has cut that expense, said Bob Petersen, Habitat construction manager. The home is expected to cost about $80,000. The estimated assessed value after construction is about $160,000.

Volunteers can contact Habitat by calling 262-925-0360, emailing family.kenosha@gmail.com or visiting the office, 6203 28th Ave.

Petersen, who also is volunteering, said the two-story home, with four bedrooms and 1½ baths, is about half done. The exterior has been completed except for front and back porches. Storm sewers, water, gas and electric lines have been installed.

Inside work will include insulation, drywall, cabinets and flooring. A volunteer carpenter will do the trim work. Students from Carthage College are to help with insulation, followed by University of Wisconsin-Parkside participants helping with drywall. There are plans to ask some local businesses to lend employees to the effort.

Helping hand

The worldwide Habitat organization also relies on donations to help pay for construction. Local affiliation with the parent organization was approved in June 2012.

Petersen said a local fundraiser is planned for 2014, although where and when haven’t been determined. A golf outing, which last year raised $22,000, will be repeated.

The organization this year received several private donations and was awarded a block grant from the city of Kenosha for $75,000, which will be available next year, Petersen said. Habitat will try again in 2014 for another block grant and additional private contributions.

“We’re going to be out shaking the bushes for more,” he said.

Families obtain a no-interest mortgage from Habitat to buy the houses and pay toward closing costs. Mortgage payments fund future home building.

Good deeds

The group’s goal is constructing at least one house or rehabbing at least two per year, although the preference is to build. It is considering building a second and maybe third house next year. The city has houses that could be rehabbed, Petersen said.

If Habitat decides to build, it could choose from lots now owned by the city and private citizens. Work on new houses could begin as early as April, depending on money and weather.

Meanwhile, the Vega family is hoping to move by spring.

“It’s a great feeling to see the whole project come about,” said Jose Vega. “It’s the American dream, owning a home. It’s a life-changing experience. ”

Families must meet requirements

Families that want to be considered for a home built through the Habitat for Humanity Kenosha chapter must meet several guidelines.

A family’s income can be no more than $29,820 for one person or $59,280 for eight. The family must attend workshops on home financing, maintenance and financial literacy.

“We teach them to be a home owner,” said Bob Petersen, Habitat construction manager, of the workshops. “Things like cutting the grass and changing the furnace filter.”

Families also must contribute 400 hours of “sweat equity,” or their own time, in preparing a house for occupancy. This gives them a sense of pride in what they’ve helped create as well as reduce the cost of construction.

For more information on the process, contact Habitat at its office, 6203 28th Ave., online at www.habitatkenosha.org or by calling 262-925-0360.

Interest grows in Central chapter

Interest in a Habitat for Humanity chapter at Central High School appears to be building.

Some 150 students, considered a large amount, signed up for information about the group at a September event, said Scott Kessler, Central technology education teacher and chapter adviser.

The Central chapter was formed to raise awareness for the need for affordable housing in southeastern Wisconsin, Kessler said.

He said the chapter had about a dozen students involved in 2011-12, its first year, and that increased to 50 during 2012-13. He thought the surge in enthusiasm this year might have been from word of mouth.

A meeting was held Nov. 22 to begin planning the Central chapter’s 2014 family fun expo fundraiser, to be held in February at the school.

The chapter last year held a fundraiser, which brought in $2,500. The money was donated to the Kenosha Habitat chapter for its first house, now about half built, at 3914 14th Ave.

The group during August 2012 and July 2013 visited Maryville, Tenn., where students helped build a home. They paid their own way. Six students went to that area in summer 2012, and 12 this past summer.

The students met the owner-to-be families and worked side by side with them, Kessler said.

“There’s fellowship involved, and it feels good to know how much you helped and how much it’s appreciated,” he said. “It’s an excellent experience for the kids. They’re up on a roof and laying shingles, and they had a ball.

“It’s a feel-good thing when you’re done with it.”

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