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Habitat adds repair work to tool belt

Known for new building, the nonprofit now does rehab work



Charleston Habitat for Humanity, a local nonprofit helping first-time buyers by building low-cost affordable homes, has expanded into the repair business. The Charleston chapter is the first in the state to add rehab projects to its to-do list, offering limited assistance to existing homeowners.

The traditional Habitat program provides homes built with volunteer assistance at a reduced cost, if the homeowner meets income requirements and pitches in on the work.

Executive Director Jeremy Browning says the repair program is a recognition that the chapter primarily works in urban areas where needs may not be for new housing, but to preserve what's already there.

"We don't have a lot of subdivisions to build in," Browning says.

Construction Manager Dan Jones says the houses that qualify should only need moderate repairs, costing anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. If approved, the homeowner would be asked to pay back 10 percent of the construction costs.

In the first home, set to be completed early next month, Habitat retrofitted the bathroom for handicapped access and replaced siding, windows, cabinets, and flooring at a cost of about $12,000.

The rehabs have been a challenge for a program that has been so focused on new construction in the past, Jones says.

"You're using the same basic skills; it's just not as straight forward," he says.

Because of the type of work, the projects aren't typically volunteer friendly.

"It tends to be a little tighter space, requiring highly skilled volunteers in fewer numbers," Jones says. "There's a lot more problem solving."

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