Dr. Suess

"And will you succeed? Yes indeed! Yes indeed! Ninety Eight and Three Quarters guarenteed!"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Closer and Closer

Pearls and Dreams

Broken Arrow Paper

Organization finds slow suburban spread
By TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer

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Fourth Habitat home planned for Broken Arrow
For an area nonprofit that helps lower-income families become homeowners, a new project in Broken Arrow could serve as a model for its future efforts in the suburbs.
The Tulsa chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which has built 137 low-cost homes -- mostly in north and west Tulsa -- since it formed in 1988, has planted three in Broken Arrow so far and has another one planned for construction soon.

Most land for Habitat projects is donated, so the organization has to build where it can get land, Gary Casteel, Habitat executive director, said. Habitat officials would like to put more homes in Broken Arrow and other suburban communities, but high land costs make acquiring property there more difficult.

That's where older sections of the cities could come to play a bigger part in advancing Habitat's mission, Casteel said.

"Hopefully, community leaders will look at their older downtown areas and see the opportunity there for decent affordable housing, whether through us or other options," he said.

Habitat, a faith-based organization with chapters all over the world, will build one of its upcoming homes in Broken Arrow's downtown area -- on vacant property donated by the city.

The city acquired the property several years ago to accommodate a street widening project.

Giving it to Habitat to convert for low-cost housing is consistent with city goals, Broken Arrow Mayor Richard Carter said.

"The city is encouraging downtown development and one of the things we look at is a way of bringing families into downtown -- and new housing to replace vacant lots or dilapidated older structures. Habitat is a good way to accomplish that," Carter said.

Casteel said the family has been selected and the project should begin in mid-September with a workforce of weekend volunteers pitching in, including help from Broken Arrow churches.

"Once we have the slab, it'll take 10 Saturdays to finish," Casteel said.

The new Broken Arrow home, one of 25 Habitat has planned for 2006, will be about 1,100 square feet. The organization already has funds to cover the estimated $60,000 cost, Casteel said.

The Habitat program works like this:

The chapter selects a family from a list of applicants in the area. The family is required to put in 500 hours -- Habitat calls it "sweat equity" -- assisting with other Habitat building projects, including their own house. When the house is ready, it's sold to the family at cost with no interest charged on the mortgage.

Volunteers make it all possible, Casteel said. Habitat officials reach out to local churches for support, recently meeting with representatives from several in Broken Arrow.

Churches are invited to sign up to help build or fill other supporting roles, such as providing refreshments and lunches.

"The support has been good on our previous projects in Broken Arrow," Casteel said. "There's a lot of community spirit there."

The Broken Arrow project could also help with Habitat's wider mission effort. The organization hopes to find 12 Broken Arrow churches to help fund a home-building project overseas.

"It's called our House For A House commitment and we're asking that they donate $1,000 each," Casteel said. " Of course, we welcome any help of any kind they can give."

The organization's three previous Broken Arrow houses are on Houston Street, North 14th Street and East Greeley Street. The upcoming project is on South Cedar Avenue.

Habitat-Tulsa officials have a long-range plan for the metro area -- to build 1,500 houses by 2025.

"We're a little behind," Casteel said. "That would put us building 70 a year from here on out. But we're confident. Our goal is to eventually eliminate substandard housing from the area."

The organization is buying more properties in North Tulsa now, thanks to a $500,000 grant from a local foundation to build houses there, he added.


Tim Stanley, 259-9650