Habitat for Humanity building 14 new homes at Chestnut Street
In 2009, 16 row homes on Chestnut Street burned down. A decade later, in 2019, Habitat for Humanity broke ground to build three new sets of rowhomes on the then-vacant property.
Progress on the 14 new homes was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As health and safety restrictions were implemented and withdrawn, the Chestnut Street project continued on and off. Despite supply chain issues affecting access to building materials in 2021 and 2022, construction continued.
Today four of the 14 homes are completed; the remaining 10 are split between the two buildings still under construction. The second building will have six homes, and the third building will have four.
The Chestnut Street construction is a unique project for Habitat. They typically build single homes, not rowhouses. Some houses even go up in a week called a "build week," when scores of volunteers work constantly in shifts.
One home in the Chestnut Street project takes about 4,000 volunteer hours to build, according to Kasey Lofties, public relations and developer manager for Habitat.
Habitat's own full-time construction team and a group of consistent volunteers called the "Core Krew" are working on the Chestnut Street homes.
Mark Enders, one of Habitat's site supervisors, was on Chestnut Street the day of the 2009 fire as a volunteer firefighter with the Yorkana Fire Co. Enders oversees Habitat's full-time construction crew but also works with members of the Core Krew.
They do a little bit of everything, Steven Debelius said, referring to the group as "a jack of all trades." They prime, paint, lay down flooring and install windows and doors, among other tasks. The only work they do not do is cabinet installation, HVAC work and plumbing, which is contracted to companies.
Some of the Kore Crew have been volunteering with Habitat for Humanity for more than a decade. One such volunteer is Pat Coulson of Manchester.
"God calls us to help others, sometimes those less fortunate than us. That's why I do this," he said.
While looking for groups to volunteer with, Habitat for Humanity stuck out to him. Habitat requires new homeowners to go through programs to ensure they are successful in taking care of and paying for their homes.
"They have to learn how to handle their money [and] learn how to do minor repairs in their home," Coulson said.
When someone applies for a Habitat home, they go through a multi-step approval process and complete "225 sweat equity hours" per adult, with a household limit of 450 hours, Lofties said.
The applicant starts the process by submitting the financial history of every adult in the house and giving their reason for interest in the program, Lofties said. Next, the applicant meets with the family services manager to go over more questions and bring up any needs they may have.
If the family services manager thinks the applicant is a good fit for the program, the application goes to the loan review committee. "Career financial personnel" make up the committee, and any information that could identify the applicant is removed before the application goes to the committee, Lofties said.
When the committee approves the application, it goes to the board of directors, who give the final approval.
The construction crew expects the second building on Chestnut Street to be done in April or May of 2023 and the third in early 2024, Lofties said.
Out of the 14 homes, all four in the first building have owners. The most recent move in to a Chestnut Street home was on Aug. 30.
— Reach Noel Miller at NMiller3@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @TheNoelM.