Habitat for Humanity partnership brings two new homes to Ames amid lumber cost rise, other shortages

Danielle Gehr
Ames Tribune

The last year brought new challenges for home building, but with an Ames partnership and community donations, two new affordable homes are coming to Ames.

Habitat for Humanity of Central Iowa is accepting applications from families to fill the new Ames homes they expect to break ground on this summer, Habitat for Humanity of Central Iowa Community Outreach Coordinator Andrea Weber said.

Interested applicants have until June 18 to apply.

Increased lumber prices, acquisition expenses and appliance and hardware shortages challenge home builders, but Habitat for Humanity has been aided by a city partnership and community support. 

"We are facing some things that we have not experienced before," Weber said. "Coming out of a pandemic, everyone is facing the shortages, and we're looking at uncharted territory, but we're grateful for the city of Ames."

Habitat builds homes at a reduced market price with interest-free 10-year mortgages for families who can demonstrate a need for safe and affordable housing. To ensure a successful placement, Habitat also helps families with financial planning and homeowner education. 

The two new Habitat homes will be built at 1126 Grand Ave., where Des Moines Area Community College students will help break ground in July, and 618 10th St. The original homes on these lots will be demolished to make way for the new builds. 

Before they get building, Habitat is looking for families to fill the three-bedroom 1,000-square foot homes they have planned. 

"The family that is selected does get to really personalize the home and make it their own," Weber said. "(They) get to pick floor color. They get to pick the paint color. So little finishing touches like that they can get to have fun, which is a great way to personalize it."

Coronavirus posed new challenges such as the rising cost of lumber, Weber said, which has increased 250% over the last year and added more than $24,000 to the cost of a single-family home.

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For a yearly Habitat of Central Iowa fundraising event, staff bring a stud to football games and ask tailgaters to make donations then sign the stud which will be used in the home they helped fund. Two years ago, this 2-by-4-foot stud could be purchased for $2.50, Weber said. Now a single stud costs $7 on average.

Weber said the two new builds are designed to reduce the amount of lumber needed for the structure of the home. 

Aside from lumber prices rising, garage door, washer and dryer shortages also add difficulties when building affordable homes, as well as simply acquiring land in Ames.

"Land in Ames is very hard to come by and it's typically very expensive," Weber said. "We need to keep these mortgages as financially affordable as we can and so when the city came to us and said, 'If you can put a house here, we will make a deal with you.' It was great."

This partnership with the city brought a reduced price for the Grand Avenue property, opened up grant opportunities and led to more volunteers, Weber said.

Interested families can call (515) 232-8815 or visit their website, hfhci.org.

On top of their mortgage, selected families will need to complete 400 hours of "sweat equity," such as helping with a home build or volunteering in Habitat's Central Iowa office. These hours can be completed by friends and family members as well. 

Applications are available online or at 3504 Grand Ave. Applications postmarked by June 18 will be accepted. Applications are reviewed with all identifying information blacked out for anonymous selection, Weber said.

Danielle Gehr is a politics and government reporter for the Ames Tribune. She can be reached by email at dgehr@gannett.com, phone at (515) 663-6925 or on Twitter at @Dani_Gehr.