Building ohana one nail at a time

ELEELE — Chris Floss and a group of six other volunteers caulked, painted, sanded and worked on a two-bedroom, one-bathroom Habitat for Humanity house at Eleele on Wednesday.

“This is our first day working, and we’ve enjoyed the island,” said Floss, who is part of Thrivent Build, a volunteer group out of Minnesota. “The prices of homes are so high, (so it’s for a good cause).”

Habitat for Humanity is seeking applicants to fill 15 lots in Phase II-A of the Eleele Iluna Subdivision for the Habitat self-help homebuyer program, which uses funding from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Department.

“Last year we got a 523 self-help grant, and it helped to reduce the costs of the homes,” said Catherine Kaauwai, Kauai Habitat for Humanity family services manager. “There was also a requirement that at least 40 percent of the applicants that we turn in for the funding period have to be in the very low income. Out of 15, which we’re looking for in this funding period, we needed six of them to be very low.”

Out of 50-75 applications, Kaauwai said most were of the low-income bracket. About one or two of the applicants were considered very low-income families.

To be considered very low income, a household size of one must make between $17,250-$31,800 a year, according to the USDA. For a family a four, the total household must make between $27,950-$45,400.

Applications are due by Dec. 2.

“At the end of that deadline, if we get 50 applicants, we’ll put 50 numbers into a lottery online,” Kaauwai said. “They’ll send us a random list and we’ll start working down that list to find six families that qualify for a loan on the very low-income bracket.”

Anyone who didn’t get a loan or didn’t get a home will remain on a notification list, she said.

In March 2014, Habitat for Humanity received 257 applications for the Eleele phase for 107 homes. After a lottery, 12 homes were built in that first funding period.

Houses range from a two-bedroom, one-bath home priced at $211,000 to a four-bedroom, two-bath home priced at $223,000.

“Families have to qualify for some type of loan and we work with USDA,” Kaauwai said. “We also work with county housing that has a Community Development Block Grant loan that some people have been using. We also have a resource department that is just awesome. They work with getting grants to fund buying tools, vehicles, help out with filling positions.”

With the current phase, families must be involved with 65 percent of the construction of their home.

“They all have to get their building permits,” Kaauwai. “They’ll all start digging their foundations together. When all the foundations are dug, then they’ll put in the flooring. They’re all done at the same time. They work on each other’s homes. Their family and friends can come out to help out. We welcome any local volunteers that would come out and help us build.”

Karen and Jerry Lorch of Washington started volunteering with Habitat about five years ago.

“We come over for a month, twice a year, and we started doing this,” Karen said. “We volunteer two days a week while we’re here. We love doing this. It’s a lot of fun and it’s for a really good cause. Housing is so expensive here.”

Habitat will be presenting two informational meetings on how to apply for the Habitat self-help homebuyer program. The first meeting is on Nov. 16 at Chiefess Kamakaheli Middle School Cafeteria in Lihue at 6 p.m.; the second meeting will take place at Waimea Canyon Middle School Cafeteria on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m.

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