Nonprofit builds homes for 5 families

She won’t move in for 10 months, but that doesn’t stop Izabella Tumanyan from visiting the beginnings of her new home each day in the 600 block of Geneva Street. Sometimes she comes with her husband and two children, ages 10 and 12.

“We are very excited,” Tumanyan said. “Every day I come here…and watch from the outside to see how it is being built.”

The Habitat for Humanity project is in the beginning stages — a crew from the Pasadena-based construction company Pankow laid the foundation this week. But when it is done in March 2012, the five-unit, 6,250-square-foot complex will become home to local families for whom home ownership would otherwise have been a distant fantasy.

The $1.1 million project is the result of collaboration not just between Habitat for Humanity and its beneficiaries, but also the city of Glendale and local businesses, said Paul Linz, executive board member of Habitat for Humanity’s San Gabriel Valley chapter.

“The property was provided to us by the city of Glendale,” said Paul Linz. “Glendale has been a huge partner for us over many, many years. We have built more homes here than anywhere else.”

Glendale spent $2.5 million to acquire the land.

Founded in 1976, Habitat for Humanity has helped build more than 400,000 houses around the world. Much of the labor is done by community volunteers overseen by construction professionals.

The organization’s goal is to eliminate poverty one home at a time, Linz said. Owners must contribute 500 hours of labor toward the construction of their own home, referred to as “sweat equity.” They also pay a mortgage, albeit less than what it would be for a full-cost unit.

“The fundamental mission has always been to build decent affordable housing,” Linz said. “We’re into giving people a hand up, not a hand out.”

Jean Waked, a Lebanese immigrant who will occupy one of the units with his wife and two children, said he knew the application process was competitive and that he had steeled himself for disappointment.

“It was a big surprise,” Waked said of being selected. “It is so hard to get in.”

Standing Thursday along the perimeter of the construction site, he said it is a thrill to watch his new home being built from the ground up.

“This is a dream for everyone,” Waked said. “Hopefully, everyone can have this.”

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