A place of their own

Posted: June 11, 2014

The Winchester Star

Jose Bernal (left) and Suventino Luna, volunteers from Martinez Drywall, put up drywall in the Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County's 2014 Home Builders Blitz house on North Kent Street on Tuesday.
Bill Burslem (from left), Dave Donivan, Geoff Wilkes, Bob Luce and Oscar Medrano work on the front porch of the Habitat for Humanity home that will become Medrano’s.
Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County’s 2014 Home Builders Blitz house is under construction this week on North Kent Street. Construction started Monday and will finish up Friday.
Bryan Shipman, a volunteer from J&T Construction, cuts siding at the Habitat for Humanity house.


By the time the week is out, local Rubbermaid employee Oscar Medrano and his two sons will be able to see what their first house looks like.

Volunteers are building Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County’s 58th home since the late 1990s.

The construction project is part of Home Builders Blitz 2014. Habitat for Humanity is partnering this week with community builders across the country to build 300 homes, according to its website, habitat.org.

Medrano and his sons — Zicri, 14, and Dennis, 11 — likely will be able to move into their new home at 597 N. Kent St. by the end of the month or shortly afterward, according to Mike Butler, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Winchester-Frederick County.

The 1,050-square-foot home will have three bedrooms and one bathroom, and will feature front and side porches, Butler said.

“It’s pretty much a standard type design that we do for our houses,” he said. “We try to be as consistent as possible for economy of scale.

“The goal is to build this house in one week.”

Volunteers from about two dozen companies are working on the house, according to Nancy Tilson Sinback, executive officer of Winchester-based Top of Virginia Building Association.

“Members are very excited,” she said Tuesday. “I’m feeling very good about my members. We’re coming off a tough economy for housing. Many members have stepped up remarkably. It’s a worthy cause.”

Phil Lemieux, who works for ProBuild — a lumber company with a facility in Winchester — was helping volunteers with another company as they put up siding.

“Just giving back to the community,” he said. “Can’t wait to do the next one.”

The foundation was laid about a month ago, and the walls went up a short time later, Butler said. Roofing started Saturday, as did work on some of the preliminary wiring and heating, ventilation and the air-conditioning system.

“By Friday afternoon, except for the punch list [tasks that must be completed to satisfy the terms of a building contract], it will be a livable house,” Butler said.

Butler described prospective homeowner Medrano as “an incredible individual; very dedicated, very hard worker.”

On Tuesday, Medrano joined others working in the mud of what will be his front yard. The porch was being built, and siding was going up on two sides of the home.

“Each adult [Habitat house recipient] has to put in 250 sweat-equity hours,” Butler said.

Children 16 and older must put in 40 hours.

Medrano described himself as “happy, excited,” about the house. He and his sons are currently living in a rental apartment nearby.

“Over there, they’re sharing a big room,” said Medrano, a machinery operator. “But, here, they have their own room.”

Qualified Habitat recipients make payments on a discounted mortgage at a zero interest rate, Butler said. Habitat usually holds second and third mortgages on the home for smaller amounts as an incentive to keep the homeowner in the house.

“We keep [the monthly mortgage payment] between 350 and 450 [dollars],” Butler said. “Most people when they come in are paying much higher rent. They’re paying anywhere from 700 to $1,000.”

The new homeowners are also required to take classes on topics including savings, being a good neighbor, home maintenance and investing, he said.

“If you go from $1,000 a month [in rent] to 450 [for a mortgage], you’ve got money, and that’s a big temptation to people,” said Butler in explanation of the classes.

Only about a half-dozen of the 58 habitat homes in the area have had their owners move out or fall into foreclosure, Butler said.

“Our second and third homes built just paid off their houses,” he said.

At the 597 N. Kent St. home, Habitat paid $25,000 for two small adjoining lots and will probably spend about $15,000-$25,000 in materials, according to Butler.

“About three-fourths of the cost of the house will be paid for by the donors, and that’s both contractors and suppliers,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for the building community to come together and share their skills, to share their materials in a project that will truly benefit somebody.”

Butler said Habitat hopes to close on another of its houses, at 400 Highland Ave., later this month. There is another house awaiting its occupants move in.

— Contact Sally Voth at svoth@winchesterstar.com