Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on first Ypsi Township construction since 2008

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley broke ground on three new homes on Firwood Street in Ypsilanti Township on April 15.
Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley (Habitat) broke ground on three new homes on Firwood Street in Ypsilanti Township on April 15, its first new construction in the area since 2008.

The homes are slated to be available to potential buyers in 2025. Habitat homes are offered to low-income individuals or families (individuals must make less than $66,300 a year, or a family of four must make less than $94,650 a year). Buyers pay only the cost to build Habitat homes, and must make a minimum down payment of $1,000. 

Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley CEO Sarah Stanton says Habitat sold 13 new homes in Ypsi Township from 2001 to 2008, after which the organization turned its focus to renovation due to the high amount of foreclosures during the subprime mortgage crisis. 
Doug Coombe Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley CEO Sarah Stanton.
"We’re going back to some of the lots that we own and doing new construction while still doing renovations," Stanton says. "Habitat is churning all the time, always completing houses in addition to looking at the future years of what we’ll be able to do."

She says that while Habitat has completed projects throughout Washtenaw County since 2008, the organization’s focus on Ypsi Township is pointed.

"We have primarily focused on [the Firwood and West Willow] neighborhoods in Ypsi Township because of the very high need there. It makes sense to concentrate our efforts and leverage all that together," Stanton says. "It’s the best way for us to have the most impact." 
Doug CoombeGood News Group Treasurer Michael Muha.
Stanton feels that Habitat’s success renovating homes in Ypsi Township is in part due to the many community partnerships the organization has formed over its 35 years operating in Washtenaw County. One of these long-term partnerships is with Good News Group, a collection of several local congregations who pool both monetary and volunteer resources during each Habitat build season. Good News Group Treasurer Michael Muha says Good News Group currently includes 14 congregations.

"Around 2008, there were many repossessed and foreclosed houses, which were bringing down surrounding property values and were eyesores," Muha says. "These were ideal candidates for rehabilitation, so we have been tearing them down to the studs, installing good insulation, energy-efficient appliances, and giving new life to these buildings and neighborhoods."

Good News Group congregations have contributed to Habitat’s funding goals for the Firwood constructions, as well as providing construction volunteers on one Firwood lot as the project continues.
Doug CoombeNew Habitat homes under construction on Firwood Street in Ypsilanti.
"Member congregations feel that, in addition to providing quality housing and improving area neighborhoods, working together ... helps our sense of community and furthers our commitment to environmental and social action," Muha says.

While Good News Group handles one of the two lots currently under construction, the other lot is a designated Women Build project. Women Build is a Habitat program, first started in 1991 in North Carolina, through which women raise thousands of dollars for Habitat builds and provide hundreds of volunteer hours on construction sites. The finished homes are sold to women. Habitat Board President Jeannette Jackson, who has participated in a number of past Washtenaw County Women Build projects, calls the program "one of her favorite things about Habitat." She says the program also helps volunteers gain valuable skills as they build "very high-quality homes."

"There’s nothing like working on building a house with all women for women," Jackson says. "The majority of low- to moderate-income families are single women-led families, and to help in this tangible, concrete way is very meaningful."
Doug CoombeHabitat Board President Jeannette Jackson.
Jackson notes Habitat's long-term commitment to the community through events such as beautification days and opportunities for local homeowners to work with Habitat on performing repairs and maintenance in their own homes.

"Habitat has done a really good job of building trust in the community," Jackson says. "The emphasis on wanting to make sure people are safe in their homes is, I think, a critical part of what can help build trust, and speaks to the holistic approach that this particular Habitat has."

More information on Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley’s homeownership program can be found here. To find out more about Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, its work throughout Ypsi Township, and volunteer opportunities, visit the organization's website.

"The home ownership market is very tight right now, especially for smaller homes," Stanton says. "We need to solidify our home ownership options in the county, from very low income to very high income, all across the spectrum."

Rylee Barnsdale is a Michigan native and longtime Washtenaw County resident. She wants to use her journalistic experience from her time at Eastern Michigan University writing for the Eastern Echo to tell the stories of Washtenaw County residents that need to be heard.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
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