Habitat For Humanity Puts Down Roots in Columbia Falls

By Beacon Staff

COLUMBIA FALLS – Habitat For Humanity’s Executive Director Christine Morris was able to see her nonprofit’s work come full circle this week. While two families moved into their new homes on Mitchell Way in Columbia Falls, two more families broke ground on their new homes just a few doors down.

“It’s extremely moving to not just see families move into a new home, but to see them now have an opportunity to thrive,” she said. “They now have a foundation to realize their dreams.”

Habitat For Humanity of the Flathead Valley held a groundbreaking ceremony and home dedication on Wednesday, Oct. 16 in a small neighborhood near the Plum Creek Timber Co. plant that it has been developing since 2011. Morris said the $12 million, 16-home development will be completed in 2015.

The Flathead Valley’s Habitat For Humanity chapter was established in 1989 and, when the Columbia Falls development is complete, it will have built 50 homes in Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Kalispell. According to Morris, Habitat For Humanity is already looking for additional land in the Kalispell area to build a similar housing development and could close on property in the next six months.

To qualify for a home, a person or family must have a need to move or be living in substandard housing; have an ability to pay for the home; be willing to partner with Habitat by volunteering 500 hours of work on their house and take home buying classes and have lived in the Flathead Valley for more than a year. If a family does qualify, they help build their own home, which is sold at cost to them with a 30-year, no-interest mortgage. Morris said many people could qualify for the program.

“A lot of people think that Habitat For Humanity homes are just for low-income people, that they are just given away, but that’s not true,” she said. “This is a wonderful community, but it can sometimes be hard to find affordable housing.”

Before AJ and Jennifer Martinez applied for a home, they were living in a one-bedroom trailer with two kids and another on the way. They moved into their new home earlier this month and it was dedicated on Oct. 16.

“It’s still unreal,” Jennifer said. “It feels like we’re staying somewhere. It hasn’t hit that it’s ours.”

For Emily Nelson, 24, that feeling is still about eight months away. She and her new neighbor broke ground on their townhouse during the ceremony. Nelson said she was paying more than $1,000 a month for her current rental in Kalispell and said buying a home will be a great stepping stone.

“This is my hometown, I grew up here,” she said. “I wanted to move back to Columbia Falls, but there was nothing in my price range that would also allow me to keep my pet.”

For more information about the Habitat For Humanity of Flathead Valley, visit www.habitatflathead.org.

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