Habitat sets goal of 9 new homes


By late June 2021, if all goes according to plan, Bennington County will have nine new affordable homes.

Bennington County Habitat for Humanity has agreed to build three homes per fiscal year for 2019, 2020 and 2021, part of a matching grant program provided by Lyman Orton and Janice Izzi.

The grant will also match new contributions each year up to $100,000, and it requires the organization to repair ten homes and hold three donor events ever year of the grant.

"We've been given the opportunity to bring more affordable housing to Bennington County, and that includes both home ownership and home repair," said Susan Sommer, executive director of Bennington County Habitat for Humanity.

"We're really challenging ourselves to do more."

Habitat for Humanity, a global nonprofit housing organization with local chapters nationwide, is funded by donations and grants.

The organization works to provide safe housing with affordable mortgages for people who wouldn't otherwise get that opportunity.

Bennington County Habitat for Humanity hopes to raise $200,000 in donations each year of the grant, in addition to the maximum $100,000 matching grant.

"That's the only way we're going to be able to [build] three houses a year," Sommer said.

On average, it costs $100,000 to build a Habitat home. The organization's home repair costs — like installing wheelchair ramps — cost much less.

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Recipients pay back costs for repairs, immediately if they can, or in loans that only reflect the cost of materials, Sommer said.

So far, Bennington County Habitat for Humanity has completed five repair projects this fiscal year, four of which were ramp installations.

"For every house you build, you've got to have the money upfront to build it," Sommer said. "And if we don't have volunteers, we can't build it."

Sommer said she is excited about the grant. "What I have always believed ... is that everything is possible, if you just work hard and have fun doing it, and believe in the mission," she said.

Habitat for Humanity submitted a proposal to Orton and Izzi for funds in early 2018, at their request, Sommer said in an email.

Orton said he loves what Habitat for Humanity does. The grant is intended to help Habitat for Humanity raise some money and also increase their building of new homes, he said.

"It's about as simple as that," he said.

The organization requested a $300,000 matching grant over three years to broaden the homeownership program and strengthen the organization in order to serve more people, Sommer said in the email.

The organization committed to building three houses per year and holding three donor events per year. When Izzi and Orton granted the request for funds in mid-2018, they asked Bennington County Habitat for Humanity to commit to 10 home repair projects per year as well.

"We've been busy, busy, busy ever since," Sommer said. "We have set ourselves for an excellent challenge, and we're working very hard to meet the commitments that we've made. There will be more people in homes, and there will be more folks who are already homeowners who will have a safer place to live, when we follow through on all of our [commitments]."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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