Habitat for Humanity-North Central Georgia

About Habitat-NCG

Habitat for Humanity-North Central Georgia ("Habitat-NCG") is a qualified nonprofit, tax-exempt Christian housing ministry serving North Fulton, Cherokee, Forsyth, and Dawson counties. Habitat-NCG is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Like other affiliates in the United States, Habitat-NCG is an independent, locally run organization that is responsible for its own funding, family selection and education, land acquisition and development, and home construction. Habitat-NCG currently builds and rehabilitates an average of 12-15 homes per year.

Habitat for Humanity North Central Georgia

As of October 2016, Habitat-NCG had built or renovated 286 homes, serving over 1,075 family members. The affiliate also conducts a Home Repair Program targeted at veterans and senior citizens on fixed incomes. The Habitat-NCG's programs are open to all people, regardless of race, religion, color, or creed. Habitat-NCG has participated in the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) program since 2004.

Overview

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Description of the Project

The Villages of Park Creek is a subdivision located in an unincorporated part of Cherokee County, in an area known as Hickory Flat near the border of North Fulton and Cherokee Counties. In 2010, Habitat-NCG purchased four "semi-finished" foreclosed lots in the subdivision, which had been abandoned by the original developer and builder group, with homes being built on only 1/3 of the lots.

The vacant lots had become weed strewn and unsightly; and the value of the existing homes in the subdivision had depreciated significantly, with many being converted to rentals. Over the next 6 years, Habitat NCG purchased all of the buildable lots and completed the last of the homes in October 2016. In total, 40 single-family homes were built, making a significant impact both in the neighborhood and community.

Why the Project was Selected

Not knowing whether additional lots in the subdivision would become available after the original 4-lot purchase, Habitat-NCG did not initially contemplate that Park Creek would become a 40-home project. However, an investor group purchased the remaining lots in the subdivision, and Habitat-NCG was able to serially purchase 3 and 4 lots at a time over the next several years. The project was extremely important to Habitat-NCG. The location near the Fulton County border was readily accessible to North Fulton sponsors and volunteers. Toward the end of the project, Park Creek became an important source of reasonably priced lots at a time when available lots were becoming scarcer and prices were escalating.

Number and Type of Units

2-story, 3 and 4 bedroom, 2 and 2½ bathroom single-family homes, with 1- and 2-car garages. The homes were designed to meet the requirements of the subdivision's CC&Rs. All homes met HUD visitability standards and were ENERGY STAR® certified, with WaterSense products.

Contributions of Construction Volunteers

Construction volunteers are key to the successful delivery of homes and include weekday volunteers (regular experienced volunteers who come out on weekdays to prepare build sites for sponsor groups and perform more difficult tasks), sponsor groups, and regular experienced volunteer crew leaders who lead Saturday build days. Generally, 17 volunteers from sponsor groups are scheduled to work each Saturday along with about 5 crew leaders. On average, approximately 3,000 volunteer hours from 500 volunteers (including repeat volunteers) go into each Habitat-NCG home.

*3 days per week over 2 weeks
**2 days per week over 12 weeks

  No. of Days Hours/Day Vols/Day Total Vols Total Hours
Pre-Build Workdays 6* 6 7 42 252
Corp. Pre-Build Days 1 6 12 12 72
Weekdays
(Experienced Volunteers)
24** 6 10 240 1,440
Saturdays
(Sponsor Groups)
10 6 17 + 5 220 1,320
        514 3,084

Program Design

Staffing

Each project site has a dedicated construction manager and part-time assistant manager. The construction manager is responsible for scheduling weekday volunteers as well as Saturday crew leaders. The construction manager and assistant manager are always present at the work site to assign tasks, as well as oversee construction activities and volunteer management. Three members of the staff are fully licensed in residential construction. All construction managers and the land development manager are OSHA compliant and have "blue cards" for storm water management. All construction staff have taken a Red Cross-certified CPR and safety class.

Other members of the Habitat-NCG team who contribute at various times include: CEO, volunteer coordinator, director of development, grant/events manager, finance manager, home repair and church relations manager, purchasing manager, site acquisition manager, and site development manager.

Homeowners

Applications: Habitat-NCG typically holds a homeownership program application meeting once per year in each county in its service area. On average, 30 to 75 or more potential applicants attend these meeting and 20 to 40 applications are completed and turned in. Homeowner applicants do not apply for a specific location. Approved families are assigned to homes as they become available.

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Homeownership Requirements: To be eligible for Habitat-NCG's homeowner program, applicants:

  • Must be a permanent legal resident of the United States;
  • Must demonstrate a need for housing (rent is high, housing is not safe, etc.);
  • Must meet the income guidelines promulgated by HUD for our affordable housing program;
  • Must demonstrate the ability to pay an affordable monthly mortgage payment under an interest-free loan;
  • Must submit all the required documentation to demonstrate need and ability to pay and must consent to credit and background checks;
  • Must consent to and meet with members of Habitat-NCG's Family Services Committee for a home visit; and
  • Must demonstrate a willingness to partner with Habitat-NCG and comply with the requirements of Habitat-NCG's homeownership program.

In addition, approved applicants:

  • Must (if physically able) perform sweat equity by performing construction work on their and other Habitat homes.
    • Homeowners, with the help of family and friends, must complete 200-300 sweat equity hours, including 50 hours (for single applicants) or 100 hours (for couples) on their own home.
  • Must attend required homeowner education classes.
    • Homeowners must participate in six homeowner education classes on topics such as money management and budgeting, mortgages, insurance, wills and estate planning, and home maintenance. Approved homeowners are also required to participate in the HUD certified 8-hour pre- and post-homeownership course and (if receiving down payment assistance from the Federal Home Loan Bank) a credit counseling course by an approved provider.
  • Must save and make a $1,250 down payment toward the purchase of their home.

Volunteers

Scheduling: Work to be performed and weekday volunteers and Saturday crew leaders are scheduled by the construction manager. Volunteers from sponsor groups are scheduled by the volunteer coordinator. Typically, volunteers work over the course of about 12 weeks.

Use of Volunteers/Training: There are a wide variety of skill levels exhibited by the volunteers who participate at the build sites. Most of the regular weekday volunteers are experienced and have worked on Habitat-NCG homes for many years. They are knowledgeable about the build process and the week-to-week tasks that need to be completed. Volunteers who work on Saturdays represent the sponsor groups and are generally less experienced. Trained crew leaders are present on Saturdays to assist and supervise the volunteers throughout the day. The goals are to keep the volunteers safe, teach them new skills and ensure that they have a rewarding experience.

Daily Schedule for Volunteers: Workdays begin at 8:00 or 8:30 AM in the summer and at 9:00 AM in the winter, concluding between 2:00 and 4:00 PM. Daily tasks are assigned by the construction manager. The weekly schedule for the typical 2-story home at Park Creek (excluding weeks for trades only) was as shown on the right.

Week Activity
Week 1 First Nail Ceremony; 1st Floor Walls
Week 2 2nd Floor Floor System
Week 3 2nd Floor Walls
Week 4 Siding
Weeks 5/6 Siding; Install Drywall
Week 7 Finish Drywall
Weeks 8/9 Interior and Exterior Paint
Week 10 Pre-landscaping
Week 11 Landscaping
Week 12 Contingency
Week 13 Dedication of Home

Financing

How Financing was Obtained: Habitat-NCG did not finance the purchase of the lots or construction costs. Lots and materials were purchased with available cash, supported by a line of credit that was drawn upon on a few occasions for lot purchases.

Sources of Revenue and Expenses

Sources of Revenue Total $ % of Revenue
Non-Government Sponsors* $3,338,840 75.2%
Government Grants $1,100,879 24.8%
Total $4,439,719  
*Non-government sponsors included foundations, businesses, civic organizations, houses of worship, schools (Habitat campus chapters and clubs), and individuals.    
Sources of Expenses Total $ % of Expenses
Land Acquisition $860,686 20.1%
Development & Vertical Construction $3,421,593 79.9%
Total $4,282,278  

Production

Status of the Project: The 40-home project is complete. The last two homes were dedicated on October 1 and closed on October 14, 2016. The project served 69 adults and 107 children, for a total of 176 family members. The first mortgages for all the homes were financed and are now being serviced by Habitat-NCG.

Photos of some homes:

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Community Partnerships and Benefits: The project was a showcase for Habitat-NCG, bringing together donors, house sponsors, local businesses, civic organizations, houses of worship, schools, and general volunteers to demonstrate the need (and partial solution) for affordable housing in the community. In addition, the project demonstrated a successful partnership with Cherokee County, which provided over $500,000 in grant funds to assist in the purchase of the land not financed by SHOP. Habitat-NCG's ability to administer these grants led to Cherokee County providing a $50,000 CDBG grant to Habitat-NCG's then new Home Repair Program in 2015 and a $100,000 grant for 2016.


Lessons Learned

The Park Creek project was, in actuality, simply a series of single-family home builds with multiple homes being built concurrently. In that sense, it did not afford Habitat-NCG with many "opportunities" for "lessons learned." Builds were well-planned and adequately staffed and, subject to some weather issues (e.g., Atlanta's "snowmaggedon"), homes were completed on time. That is not to say that the Habitat-NCG's construction staff was not faced with some additional challenges:

Challenge Lesson Learned
The development manager learned that "as builts" are not always "as builts." There were many discrepancies between drawings and the placement of roads and utility easements that needed to be corrected. Build in extra time, even when working with "as builts" to ensure drawings match site conditions and make the necessary corrections.
The placement of the construction trailer was a bit of an issue due to the small lot sizes and layout and topography of the subdivision. Volunteers did not have ready access to the trailer which necessitated extra hauling of materials and tools. The problem was solved partially through the purchase of a golf cart and relocation of the trailer half-way through the project. Habitat-NCG purchased an extra lot for placement of a temporary power pole and secured licenses to use vacant lots for material storage, dumpsters, and the construction trailer. Strategically place the construction trailer to facilitate ease of access for volunteers and ensure efficient access to materials and tools. Also consider and plan for alternative options such as utilizing vacant lots for materials storage, dumpsters, and siting of the construction trailer.
House plans from a previous townhome development, modified for non-shared walls, were used at Park Creek. The additional materials were anticipated, but the additional work was initially underestimated. Build schedules were modified appropriately. When re-using house plans, be sure to take extra time to determine how the current site/project conditions may impact material quantity, labor needs, and the overall schedule.
Early on, a 4-house build at Park Creek was tried. While completed successfully, the build put too much strain on staff resources and volunteers, considering that two other builds were underway at other locations. Thereafter, no more than 3-house builds were undertaken at Park Creek. Carefully take into account the available staff and volunteer labor when determining how many homes to work on concurrently to ensure adequate staffing, efficient work, and quality production.

Contact Information

Russell Hayes, CEO, HFH North Central Georgia
rhayes@habitat-ncg.org
678-672-5221