Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County

Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County

Kulshan Homebuyer Greg Meling

Greg remembers vividly the day he left his old life behind. He was carrying his granddaughter, Keeley, up the driveway 12 years ago, and while he was looking down on her, “I heard God’s voice tell me,” he said “‘It’s time.’”

For 37 years leading up to that moment, since he was 16-years-old, Greg struggled with drug addiction. It was a struggle that had him in and out of rehab multiple times and had caused a great deal of pain and instability in his life. 

Tragically, when Greg’s son was old enough, he fell into the same trap–so did his son’s girlfriend, Keeley’s mother. By the time Keeley was born, no one was in the position to care for her. So when Greg heard, “It’s time,” He knew what it meant. He knew it was time to straighten his life out, and when he recounts that time, he says about his granddaughter, in a matter-of-fact way, “We saved each other.” 

He took Keeley that day–she was only two months old at the time. A couple of weeks later, Child Protective Services (CPS) got involved. For two years he fought to adopt her, and all the while those involved with the case told him it was hopeless. One CPS agent told him plainly, that because of his past, he would never be able to adopt her. “But I didn’t worry,” Greg said, “I knew God was involved.” 

Greg stayed clean, found a good job and an apartment. His son had two more children, Kayden and Kamron. By that time, CPS looked to Greg right away to take care of them. “Once I proved myself to [CPS],” he said, “when it came to the boys they just said, ‘Do you want them?’” 

 

Today Greg is the sole provider for all 3 of his grandchildren and their legal guardian. Keeley is now 11, Kayden 9, and Kamron 8. “The kids changed my whole life,” he said, “they’ve been a blessing to me.”

Earlier this year, our Executive Director, John Moon, talked about the Missing Middle here in Whatcom County, “A family of 4 earning more than $63,000 a year, but less than $98,000, is all but locked out of the home-ownership market,” he wrote, “These families earn too much to qualify for programs like Habitat’s, and too little to afford a $350,000 ‘starter home,’ or ‘fixer-upper.’ This group… simultaneously earns too much and too little.”

“These families earn too much to qualify for programs like Habitat’s, and too little to afford a $350,000 ‘starter home,’ or ‘fixer-upper.’ This group simultaneously earns too much and too little.”

Each year, as the median home price rises, more and more Whatcom residents become part of this group and many become trapped in the rental market. This, in turn, further contributes to low vacancy rates of rentals and the rising rental prices.

Even as the sole provider to his kids, Greg makes too much to apply for a Habitat home, and too little to buy directly off the market. “I thought I’d be renting forever,” he said. Until two years ago, when a coworker told him about Kulshan Community Land Trust.

Kulshan CLT uses their resources to buy and own land. In doing so, they are able to fix the land value. As the price of the land rises over the years–quite significantly in the case of Whatcom County–they are able to keep the home price fixed so that it stays permanently affordable. The homebuyers buy the home, and Kulshan holds on to the land title. 

Much like Habitat, Kulshan CLT was born out of the desire to provide homeownership for those who would otherwise be priced out of the market. Both organizations believe that, with solid and proven reason, the impact of owning a home is a huge leap forward, and changes the lives of the partner homebuyers for generations. But each organization tries to tackle the problem from different angles. 

Habitat’s approach is to bring the community together to build. Volunteers, in-kind labor, and gifts by various organizations make it possible for us to bring construction costs way down to build affordable homes. With one nonprofit focusing on land, and another on construction, this partnership is a perfect fit. 

Furthermore, partnering with Kulshan allows us at Habitat do our part for those in the Missing Middle–since we are able to build homes for people like Greg, who make too much for Habitat’s program, but nevertheless, need a place to call home–not only for himself, but for Keeley, Kayden and Kamron. It also allows Kulshan to help those who don’t make enough for their program

The Telegraph Townhome Project was born directly out of this partnership, and exemplifies the innovative measures we must take to provide homeownership opportunities for a wide range of residents here in Whatcom County. Greg and his family are ready to move into one of the first units at Telegraph, set to be completed this year. For the past 11 years, they have been living in a small two bedroom apartment. The three kids share the one room and a large bunk bed–so it is no surprise that, when Keely was asked what she looks forward to the most for in their new home, she said, without hesitation, “My own room!”

 

“I look forward to everybody building back here so we have a community.” Greg said, referring to the future phases of the Telegraph Townhomes, “I wanna be in a community, and get to know all our neighbors.”

 

Phase 1 of the Telegraph Townhome Project will include 8 homes and is set to be completed this Summer. We were allowed to keep building during the shut down, since construction for low income housing was deemed essential, but we had to drastically reduce the amount of people allowed at our construction site. We are now seeking volunteers to help us complete these first 8 units. Find out how you can volunteer today and help our partner homebuyers move in as soon as possible!

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