New Project for Houston's Habitat for Humanity

Houston Habitat for Humanity has begun another affordable housing project. This one, on the south side at Cullen and Selinsky will be a 125-home subdivision. It is one of the organization's largest single-family home efforts in the area. Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports.

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It will be called Umland Park in honor of the founder of Houston Habitat for Humanity Carl Umland. After he retired in 1986 his minister ask him to help get a Houston Habitat chapter started. Umland says he went to a meeting and met another man who was interested in helping get the chapter off the ground.

"So when the meeting was over we got together. I said you know I liked what you were saying, he said you too, he said I tell you what, you going to take this job or aren't you? He said I'll make it easy for you I'll give you your land for your first six houses, which was up on Winkler Street, if you'll take this on. So that didn't leave me any choice did it?"

And 20 years later Houston Habitat for Humanity is going strong, providing homes for hard working low income people who put sweat equity into their homes. People like Betty Ford Branche who fled the devastation of Hurricane Katrina to resettle in Houston.

"I have to do 300 services hours, you know hammer, nails, build walls, what ever they want me to do I'm willing to do it."

Houston Habitat gets financial support from corporate sponsors and from individual donors like Jennifer Brown. She says she and her husband support the Habitat concept and wanted to help the local effort so they went on line to make their donation to the cause.

"We knew that Habitat was good stewards of the money, and that called us up to make sure the amount was right and we called them back and said yes it's right and do with it whatever you think needs to be done."

At the moment the site has been leveled and prepared for work to begin. Houston Habitat Executive Director Algenita Davis says work will move quickly and should be complete by early next year.

"We plan to have, on the ground, foundations started prior to the end of June so our streets will be in and our foundations will be there. And so some of our houses will get started very, very quickly by June and July."

Davis says there are benefits to developing a subdivision entirely of Habitat families.

"They get to be neighbors before they even move in. It also allows us the opportunity to set up a Home Owners Association. They can do some collaborative projects and they have to do a lot of things as homeowners, so for first time home buyers this is a big lesson for them."

Umland Park is second in size to Houston Habitat's Wood Glen a 220 home project that will be completed later this year and is one of the largest Habitat projects in the country.

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