Habitat for Humanity, the volunteer home-building group that is responsible for more than 20,000 homes worldwide since 1976, has earned a reputation for solid work. In 1992, for instance, the 27 Miami-area homes Habitat built survived the 175-m.p.h. winds of Hurricane Andrew with only minimal damage. And now, the eight homes Habitat completed in Pacoima last March--the group’s first in the San Fernando Valley project--have emerged unscathed from the Northridge quake.
That record, and Habitat’s pledge to redouble its construction and repair efforts in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, comes as welcome news to communities hit hard by the quake. Habitat officials say they want to provide low-to-moderate income homeowners with three levels of support:
* Help in repairing relatively minor problems such as broken windows, doors and water heaters;
* Help with major repairs or renovations for homes that sustained partial structural damage; and
* An acceleration of new home starts.
Habitat’s goal is to work on 75 to 100 homes a year. It’s the kind of effort that could nicely supplement federal, state and local government disaster-relief programs.
Habitat is not a charity. It does not build or repair homes for free. It does, however, provide no-interest loans that the current or eventual homeowner must repay. Residents also are required to perform so-called “sweat equity.” In this case, it simply means that Valley homeowners will be required to chip in and work.
For a complete home, Habitat officials say, the sweat equity requirement is typically 500 hours. It will be commensurately smaller for lighter repair work.
Robert Lamishaw, executive director of the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Habitat chapter, says that his office has received calls from across the nation from businesses willing to donate construction materials such as lumber, as well as window glass and frames, water heaters and the like.
That points out some of the group’s needs in meeting its commitment. The list includes volunteers for its North Hollywood office, and many more to work on homes as the local construction effort progresses. Habitat needs about 4,000 square feet of office space, and another 20,000 to 30,000 square feet of protected space in which to store those donated materials from around the country.
The group says it could also use donated computers to help coordinate requests for repair, and three one-ton pickup trucks to ferry materials to home sites. The Habitat office is already taking telephone requests for repair help. Until its 800-number is established, those wishing to help out or donate resources can call (818) 781-0016.
The quake damage toll to housing in the Valleys is already staggering, and certain to rise. An early Times computer analysis of city inspections of Valley dwellings found that about 45% of them were being declared unsafe. In areas close to the epicenter of the quake, the percentages were even higher. Many other homes have sustained lesser damage.
If you have been moved by images and accounts of that damage, and want to help, a donation of time, equipment or money to Habitat would be an excellent way to proceed.