In 2002, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County in Raleigh, North Carolina, along with a local builder of custom homes, enlisted the help of 11 volunteer professional home builders to see if they could do the impossible. Their goal, to build one house every day, over a 5-day period, using donated building materials as much as possible. The group completed 12 homes for a total cost to Habitat of $84,000 (not including land costs). This was the first of many Home Builders Blitz efforts for Habit affiliates across the country.
Today, the need for safe, decent, affordable housing in Whatcom County is even greater than in 2002. “At the end of the day, we have a crisis to solve,” said John Moon, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County. “We have more applicants for homes than we can handle, by tenfold.
“Affordable housing is an economic-development problem. That’s when people begin to understand Habitat’s role—and how we can help solve that economic development problem. The need is for more than one or two homes a year. That’s where we can get some traction.”
This year, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County is hosting its own Home Builders Blitz from October 10th through Saturday, October 19th. Habitat has invited builders, subcontractors, suppliers, and organizations to participate, many who are already actively involved with Habitat. This year’s focus will be on Phase 1 (8 homes) of the Telegraph Townhomes Project (52 Townhomes in 5 phases), to see how much further along we can push the build following a highly productive summer.
Every year the Blitz offers opportunities for partnerships with builders whose specialties may fall outside of new residential construction. Those with home renovation, home repair, and weatherization skills are needed. However, many of our partner builders do specialize in new home construction, such as Skeers Construction of Bellingham.
Before the official start of the Home Builders Blitz Week, Dave Monks, Senior Vice President/C.O.O., of Skeers Construction, LLC, of Bellingham, after talking with Hillary Pritchard, Outreach Director for Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County, decided that is company had something unique to offer early, to set our Home Builders Blitz in motion.
“I heard about the needs of the Blitz, and I went to the Telegraph Townhomes site. The build manager and I talked about what the needs are,” said Monks. “I knew we would be able to solve a need that probably no one else could—do the ‘dirt work,’ move material around with machinery. It’s easier to get a group together to do some nailing, but it’s harder to get five people lined up with an excavator who know how to use it without doing damage to a building or digging up a gas line, or whatever.
“As a company, we do two things: We build houses, but we also do a lot of civil construction. With that division, I could offer that work, knowing that very few people could offer that.”
After getting the green light from the Habitat Telegraph Townhomes Project’s build manager, the work was scheduled. “So I said no problem,” Monks continued. His crew graded out the area behind Phase 1 of Telegraph, where decking will soon be built. The deck construction couldn’t begin until the area was graded, with proper drainage and slope. It’s also a tight area behind Phase 1 of the Townhomes, not easy for heavy equipment.
“I had someone who could do that. We sent over Dean Collins, who’s one of our operators who is very, very good. And we brought over one of our dump trucks, our mini excavator, a plate compactor, and a laborer, and all the necessary stuff most people don’t have, and certainly don’t all know how to use safely.
“We spent three days at Telegraph, and we got it all graded out, with the right drainage and the right steps, so Habitat can move forward with their volunteers on building the back decks.
“That’s why we came in early, so that we could prepare the area for the Blitz,” he added. “I view Habitat very positively. Habitat gets people to engage, to be invested, which I think is really important because that creates a community. That’s why I believe in home ownership.”