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Habitat home construction aided by Christensen Lumber Co.

Posted by Fremont Tribune
Posted: 06/20/2017

This week the Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity started construction on their 79th house in the Fremont area since coming to the community in 1993.

In a little under two days, what started as a cement foundation and a pile of lumber began to take shape into a more familiar form.

A home.

On Monday and Tuesday, employees of Christensen Lumber Co. (CLC) spent their usual work hours molding those raw materials into a fully framed house north of 23rd street near the corner of East Churchill Drive and Dover Street.

“I really think this would take us over a month to do otherwise,” Joy McKay, Executive Director of Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity, said. “We use volunteer labor, so a lot of times that is not skilled labor, so to be able to have Christensen come out and frame these houses for us really makes a big difference and saves a lot of time.”

According to Tim Ferguson, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for CLC, volunteering his employees time to help build a home for a Fremont resident is one way for his company to give back to the community.

“Coordinating volunteer efforts is a full-time job for them (Habitat) just to get enough people to work on Saturdays and during the week,” he said. “So for us to be able to alleviate some of that stress is really the whole gist of it. That way the homeowners can get their sweat equity hours in by doing some of the finishing touches, and they are not strained for volunteers to try and frame it.”

Along with volunteering their employees work time to help frame the house in a short amount of time, CLC also spent time pre-building in their shop to make the project go even quicker.

“We pre-built the floor trusses, the walls, stairs, and roof in our shop beforehand to make the process go quicker so when we get out here we can make the most of our time,” Ferguson said.

While Habitat for Humanity relies on volunteers to help construct and finish homes, the participating families are also expected to make ‘sweat equity’ contributions to the completion of their future home.

In order to become eligible for a house built by Fremont Habitat for Humanity, applicants must attend informational sessions, go through orientation, and fill out a mortgage application. Applications are then reviewed by a committee who use three determining factors when deciding whether to move ahead with an interested family: willingness and ability to put in sweat equity, their ability to pay and their need for more adequate housing.

“It is kind of a common misconception but the homeowners do have to purchase the home, they don’t get it for free,” McKay said. “It is not as much as a regular mortgage would be, one because of donated and reduced cost materials, two we use a lot of volunteer labor, and three when we do our mortgage loan it is a zero interest loan.”

While Habitat homeowners only have to pay the cost of the construction, they are also required to help build the homes by putting in 350 hours of sweat equity if there are two adults in the household, or 200 hours of sweat equity if there is only one adult in the household.

“They have a big chunk of work that they have to put into it,” McKay said.

When it comes to the lumber and materials provided by CLC to build Habitat’s most recent house, the same rules apply.

“Habitat likes to say they give a hand up, not a hand out,” Ferguson said. “So Habitat has to pay for all these materials, therefore the homeowner also has to pay for it. So we don’t donate the lumber, what we do is we offer the materials at a pretty drastically reduced price to help make it affordable.”

With CLC employees making quick work of the skilled labor required to frame a house, the timeframe for the family to move in to the house is shorter than usual.

“Our goal, which we have not met the last two years, is to have them in sometime around Thanksgiving and before Christmas for sure,” McKay said. “But this is going to help us tremendously in terms of reaching that goal.”

Next week, CLC will again be out at a Habitat construction site to frame the organization’s second of three houses that will be built this summer for Fremont families. While the volunteer work provided by CLC makes a big difference, Habitat is always looking for volunteers to help with their mission.

For those interested in volunteering at a Habitat construction site, call 402-721-8771, stop by their office at 701 E. Dodge St. Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or visit their website at http://www.fremonthabitat.org/involve/volunteer.html.