Turning money into homes

Habitat for Humanity representatives from Yerevan, Armenia, stopped in Glendale this week, kicking off a two-week, three-city tour to raise $185,000 for affordable housing in Armenia.

“The diaspora should worry about what's happening with the housing market in Armenia,” said Seda Arzumanyan, resource development manager for Habitat Armenia. “Habitat for Humanity alone will not be able to fight against housing poverty in Armenia.”

A third of homes nationwide, and half of them in the country's rural areas, need improvements, said Executive Director Luiza Vardanyan.

The 1988 Spitak earthquake devastated the country's northern region — about 5% of the population still lives in temporary shelters, including metal railroad cars, and former schools and museums, Vardanyan said.

Plus, she said, “after the fall of the Soviet Union, maintenance of housing stopped — that is why the need is huge.”

Since the Habitat for Humanity branch opened in Armenia in 2000 — the 36-year-old organization serves 85 countries worldwide — it has built homes and facilitated renovations for 1,500 low-income families.

This fiscal year, its goal is to reach 970 families, with 350 families having already been served. The three-city tour includes San Francisco and Lansing, Michigan.

Arzumanyan recalled one family from the village of Kirants, near the Azerbaijan border, whose home was bombed during the Nagorno-Karabakh War in the early 1990s.

The conflict left the six family members living in one room. The family refused to move out of the village, though the government offered support to relocate them to Vanadzor, Arzumanyan said.

Habitat for Humanity recently funded the construction of an additional room for the home.

“We kept them in their village,” Arzumanyan said, adding that the group's interventions usually take one to four months to complete and cost between $400 and $2,500.

Each family pays back their loan over time, Vardanyan said.

The organization is also on the lookout for investors for a project that would bring new homes — costing $48,000 to $60,000 each — to 650 families who live in metal and wooden housing in Spitak. The region is still reeling from the earthquake that left 17% of the nation's housing stock uninhabitable, according to the organization.

“It's just a dream,” Vardanyan said. “If we can find enough funds, we will do this project.”

To donate to Habitat Armenia, go here.

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World