Jack Garnish knew he would find construction materials, volunteer builders and prospective homeowners in his quest to provide housing to the needy. But locating a reasonably priced building lot in Carroll County could present a problem.
Persistence and networking paid off, said Garnish, president of the Carroll chapter of Habitat for Humanity. It took nearly two years, but he got a good deal on a small lot south of Westminster.
Habitat, an international, faith-based organization that builds affordable housing, begins construction today on its first house in Carroll.
A casual conversation with Nick Pasta, a member of the board of directors of Carroll's Human Services Programs, led Garnish to the nearly 15,000-square-foot property. HSP had inherited the land a year ago and was considering selling it to pay for several of its programs, Pasta said.
The property was appraised at $55,000. Garnish persuaded HSP to shave $10,000 off that figure, money he said HSP would save on advertising and real estate fees.
Pasta, vice president of Susquehanna Bank, helped Habitat secure a no-interest loan for the property and assisted with the settlement work. "This is a nice mix for HSP and Habitat," said Pasta. "We can do a lot together."
Volunteers will break ground today for a three-bedroom, 1 1/2 - bath rancher, a modest and typical Habitat house, Garnish said. It should be ready for occupancy in about five months.
A committee is reviewing applications for those interested in the house. The panel should decide soon because the new owners will help with construction "of a good-quality, basic house that will get them started in the world," Garnish said.
The owners typically put about 400 hours of work into the home and repay the cost of construction with an interest-free mortgage. The house will be worth about $140,000, but it will cost the owners about $90,000. They will have a 25-year mortgage that will work out to about $300 a month.
"The whole idea of Habitat is to make decent housing available and affordable," said Garnish.
Habitat is needed in the community, Pasta said. Home prices in Carroll average $180,128, and those costs keep the working poor from owning their homes.
"This program gives families that could not afford a new home, a home for costs," Pasta said. "They put their own sweat equity into it as well."
Habitat for Humanity, which counts former President Jimmy Carter among its members, began organizing a Carroll chapter nearly two years ago.
Garnish has been eager to drive nails, but has spent his tenure as president organizing.
He is negotiating with a Manchester family willing to donate four lots.
He plans to don a hard hat at the Westminster site today and return there as often as building crews need him, he said.