Although the novel coronavirus has caused some setbacks for Habitat for Humanity Calaveras, the organization is once again fully operational and moving ahead with various projects across the county.
On June 3, the nonprofit submitted plans to Angels Camp officials for a 107-unit subdivision on the western side of North Main Street on Copello Drive, across from Habitat Calaveras’ administrative headquarters.
“Our goal is to get it in front of the planning commission as soon as we can,” Habitat Calaveras Executive Director Scott Behiel said. “I’m hoping that within a few months we’ll have approval through the city.”
Along with approval from the city, the completion of a sewer repair project is necessary to add the additional capacity needed for the homes, Behiel said.
“By Booster Way, downtown, there’s a portion of (the sewer system) that’s kind of crushed, to a point where even in the wintertime now it’s over capacity, so they can’t really allow any more hookups until that’s repaired,” Behiel said. “When I see them breaking dirt on that project, then I’m comfortable breaking dirt on ours.”
Behiel said that he hopes to break ground on the project in about a year.
“In an ideal world, around this time next year we’ll be breaking dirt and getting tractors out there and starting to grade,” he said. “So maybe 18 months from now we’re building houses.”
Habitat Calaveras has four different housing plans for the new neighborhood – a two-bedroom, 960-square-foot plan; two different three-bedroom, 1,250-square-foot plans; and a four-bedroom, two-story, 1,450-square-foot plan. Behiel also hopes to build 42 condo units for lower-income workers and possibly seniors.
“The condos are going to be the last built, but we’re going to try to stay flexible,” he said. “If demand dictates that we have a whole bunch of families wanting houses, we’ll fill out the whole place with single-family homes. What we’re trying to do is fit the city’s housing element and check all of the boxes as much as possible, and that’s where those condos would come in.”
The homes will have two-car garages and driveways with space for an additional two vehicles. The streets will have sidewalks, curbs and gutters, with plenty of pedestrian walkways. Deed restrictions will be placed on the properties to ensure that they stay affordable and are kept in good condition. A small recreation area is also planned.
“We want it to be a neighborhood that people can be proud of, and when you help build your own house and you’ve got pride in ownership, I think that’s not a stretch,” Behiel said. “I can imagine breaking dirt on, say, 10 houses, and all of the people are local workers, and they’re all helping to build each other’s houses, and they all move in around the same time. Wouldn’t that be a strong community?”
Behiel stressed that the new homes will not be gifts, but something that qualifying local workers will have to earn by putting in 500 hours of “sweat equity” and paying off the mortgage.
“It’s affordable workforce housing, so we’re looking at families that make between roughly $40,000 and $65,000 a year,” he said. “It will be either 0% or low-interest mortgages for terms up to as many as 38 years, and we’ll have a payment set up so that it won’t exceed about 30% of their gross income.”
In addition to the subdivision project, Habitat Calaveras is also engaged in a home repair program. Though home repairs lapsed briefly due to COVID-19, the program has restarted and many repairs are planned in the future. Behiel said that he is “cautiously optimistic” about a grant application for $280,000 to put towards the program.
“If someone makes under $65,000 (annually) they can qualify, and most people qualify for a subsidy,” Behiel said. “If they’re over 62 years old, or if they’re disabled, or if they make less than $35,000 a year, we’ll throw the first $2,000 at the repair, and anything that the repair might cost over that, we’ll provide interest-free financing over, say, five years to keep the payments low.”
Besides the subdivision and the home-repair program, Habitat Calaveras plans on building at least one house in the county every six months. Behiel said that he hopes to break dirt on a home in Copperopolis later this month.
“We’ve already selected a family, and we’re looking forward to that build,” he said. “We’re going to build the house from scratch, and that will be the first one we’ve done from scratch in a couple of years, so we’re excited about that. Hopefully, we’ll have it finished so that the family can move in at Christmas time.”
While the ReStore in San Andreas had to close temporarily, it is again open for business.
“We’re taking precautions. We have handwashing stations, and we have marks on the floor where people should stand, and we’re limiting 10 customers at a time,” Behiel said. “It’s actually rebounded very, very well. In fact, our first two weeks were outstanding, and we were excited about that. It’s bringing in more revenue now than it did before it closed.”
Five of Habitat Calaveras’ six full-time equivalent staff members were also temporarily laid off, but the organization is again fully staffed.
“We’re back up to speed and it’s all good now,” Behiel said.
Those interested in donating, volunteering or applying for Habitat for Humanity Calaveras’ programs can contact the organization by phone at 890-3848, online at habitatcalaveras.org or in person at 536 N. Main St., Angels Camp