By Chris Barber
Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit agency that requires its applicants to put their own sweat equity into their future houses, plans to built 40 homes in West Grove.
The site of the project is a 6.8 acre plot of land at Willow and South Guernsey roads, a little to the south of Old Baltimore Pike, known as the Chambers property.
The design, according to Habitat for Humanity of Chester County Executive Director Chip Huston, is eight blocks of five attached two- and three-story houses each. The houses will be for sale at about $90,000, have three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths.
Habitat bought the land recently for $1 million and also paid off the former owner's $300,000 loan to obtain the parcel. Huston said Habitat has been searching for land in the southern Chester County area for years, and this acreage finally materialized. Construction will not begin until 2012, after which the agency expects to build five homes a year over an eight-year period, according to a press release.
Huston said people who apply to purchase Habitat for Humanity homes must pledge to help with 200 hours in the building of those dwellings. If they are infirm or incapable of doing heavy construction work, they must put in the same amount in more sedentary tasks associated with Habitat. "We've had six or seven (young) people 16 or older and 'Bunny,' who's 92, was out there on Saturday helping at Freedom Village," he said.
In addition to pledging help, the applicants must also undergo a credit check and have a good record of paying bills.
There are currently 115 Habitat for Humanity homes in Chester County in areas like Coatesville, Phoenixville, Downingtown and West Chester. This is the first project in the West Grove area. In order to qualify to work on and purchase one of the homes, they must earn 60 percent or less than the median income of the area, which is at this time $78,000. It puts the participants in a group that earns $22,000 to $50,000, Huston said.
When he was asked about the quality of construction rendered by inexperienced volunteers, he said that the structures are sound and that all the work, including electrical and plumbing, is overseen by professionals. He added that as a young volunteer, he had once worked on a porch and was congratulated on his input. But the next day, supervisors had to start it over because it was not up to standards.
In order to continue with the project, Habitat must continue on a path to raise $5 million, which, Huston said, will involve grants from individuals, businesses and churches as well as other varied funding opportunities, including possible support from the county.
West Grove Borough Manager Sharon Nesbitt said Habitat has been approved for the project by borough council. The agency has recorded its plans, and the plans have been approved by the engineer as well as council. The project also has obtained its sewer permit, she said.