Midland County Habitat for Humanity is building multi-family units

Jennifer Chappel is the President and CEO of Midland County Habitat for Humanity.The Midland County Habitat for Humanity’s stated goal is affordable homeownership, but now the nonprofit is adding a new approach to meet that goal. Habitat is building multi-family units on Midland’s west side, just west of Pangborn Marine on M-20. Trusses were being put in place this week on the four condominium-style units. Habitat broke ground in mid-September.  

Jennifer Chappel, president and CEO of Habitat’s local affiliate for the past 10 years, says, “The project is a direct result of a housing study in 2018.”  

Chappel adds, “What really stood out to us was that Midland does not need more single-family housing units … not everyone wants a single-family unit; property and yard maintenance can be a challenge.”  

The housing study was commissioned by the Housing Task Force, which is made up of several organizations including the Midland Area Community Foundation, Home to Stay, United Way, and Habitat. The task force meets monthly. The study was partly conducted in response to a challenge from a potential funder to gather data to demonstrate the need for these types of projects. 

The housing study was commissioned by the Housing Task Force, which is made up of several organizations including the Midland Area Community Foundation, Home to Stay, United Way, and Habitat.‘We wanted to understand what the need was and find out if we were serving that need,” says Chappel. The study found that the county lacked 1,000 units of affordable housing. 

Habitat has historically built single-family homes. Since the local affiliate was chartered in 1988, Habitat has built 80 homes in Midland County. 

“We’re going to continue to do single-family homes but we’re adding multi-family units,” says Chappel. Habitat doesn’t want to get into the rental business. Following the tenets of Habitat’s international organization, “Our ultimate goal is ownership,” says Chappel. 

The units were designed by Habitat’s local construction manager, Erich Ostrander, but the work is volunteer-driven.The four units under construction each cover about 1,000 square feet with three bedrooms and one bathroom. They each have a single-car attached garage. The units feature a slab-on-grade foundation. They’re ADA accessible with a universal design. The units are also ENERGY STAR-rated homes. Chappel points out that Habitat has had a long relationship with Dow and now DuPont to help make their homes more energy-efficient.

“On an ENERGY STAR rating, the scale is 100 to 0. Anything below 80 is considered energy efficient. We are projected to have a rating of 35-40,” she says. That will make the homes more affordable, especially because the second-highest bill most homeowners pay after the mortgage is the energy bill, according to Chappel.

Habitat has had a long relationship with Dow and now DuPont to help make their homes more energy efficient.Because it’s a condo-style, there will be a homeowners association (HOA) and they will pay HOA fees for lawn maintenance, snow removal, and future major repairs. Two of the four families have been identified for the units. They’ll pay their mortgage to Habitat. The projected mortgages will cost $700 per month for 30 years. To qualify, a family must demonstrate a housing need, a willingness to partner with Habitat, and have the ability to pay by meeting the criteria for a conventional mortgage.  

In addition to an affordable down payment, the families must invest 250 hours of “sweat equity” for each adult who will live in the home. That time can include being involved in the construction, attending financial education programs, volunteering at the Habitat Restore Shop, and helping in the office. Their mortgage payments will help fund future Habitat projects. Their goal is to develop a seven-acre parcel of land on M-20, starting in three years.

The units were designed by Habitat’s local construction manager, Erich Ostrander, but the work is volunteer-driven. A regular group of retired construction leaders and community volunteers do much of the work which includes framing, painting, and installing cupboards. Chappel says construction experience is not necessary if you want to volunteer. Habitat hires local contractors to do some jobs including plumbing, HVAC, and concrete. 

Habitat wants to have occupancy in these new units by late spring. Their timeline has been challenged and the cost to build has risen because of supply chain issues stemming from the COVID-19 virus and the Tittabawassee River disaster in 2020. The estimated cost for the new development is $600,000. It’s being funded by the Herbert H. & Grace A. Dow Foundation,  the Midland Area Community Foundation, Strosacker Foundation, DuPont, Thrivent Financial, Huntington Bank, and other donors.

The four units under construction each cover about 1,000 square feet with three bedrooms and one bathroom.Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976. Perhaps the most visible volunteers are former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who live in Georgia near where Habitat was started. Over 80 homes have been built in Midland County, about half in the City of Midland and half outside the city. The Midland County Habitat is also involved in-home repairs for owners who can’t afford them. That added service was triggered by the housing market crash in the late 2000s. They’ve repaired over 300 owner-occupied homes in Midland County. The number one request is for roofs.  

“We address safety issues first, before cosmetics,” says Chappel.

Read more articles by Ron Beacom.

Ron Beacom has served as the managing editor of Catalyst Midland since October 2020. He's also a freelance writer for the Midland Daily News and the producer/host of "Second Act: Life at 50 Plus" for WDCQ-Delta College Public Media (PBS). He's the co-producer of two WDCQ documentaries about the Tittabawassee River Disaster in 2020, "Breached! and Breached!2-The Recovery."