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Habitat for Humanity Breaks Ground on Somers Project

The organization’s Flathead affiliate is helping three local families achieve homeownership

By Denali Sagner
A Habitat for Humanity house build in Lakeside on June 18, 2021. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Hammer and nails in hand, Habitat for Humanity Flathead Valley is working to help local families build their way out of the housing crisis. 

Last month, Habitat’s Flathead affiliate broke ground on three new houses in Somers, an exciting development for the organization, which has recently received increased requests for help amidst a county-wide housing shortage. As the Somers construction project gets into full swing, Habitat officials are enthusiastic about helping three local families traverse the path to homeownership. 

The three families involved in the Somers project are all participants in Habitat’s homeownership program, in which prospective owners put in “sweat equity” hours to construct their future home, which is then sold to them at fair market value. Habitat homeowners pay closing costs and a monthly no-interest mortgage to the organization, which uses the money to invest in even more construction projects.  

Hilary Devlin, the organization’s community engagement coordinator, emphasized that Habitat’s homes are not just donated to those in need, but are built and financed by the families themselves. 

“We don’t give away homes. Each family has to be able to afford a mortgage,” Devlin said, adding that the families also “go through financial counseling and education classes.”

The three families working to build their homes in Somers come from an array of backgrounds and housing situations. Two of the families are single-mothers with young children, living in small apartments. The other family is a mother and father with two young boys, currently living in a small one-bedroom cabin without indoor plumbing or running water. 

“We need a Habitat home, not just because of the substandard living conditions, but because my son needs his own room, with space to play and grow.  Homeownership would change the quality of our life beyond measure,” Shanell Berkey, one of the prospective homeowners, told Habitat Flathead. 

Though Habitat Flathead has been active for over 30 years, this is the organization’s first project in Somers, a new step in helping families throughout the area.

“There’s a lot of excitement.  We’ve never built in Somers before, and the community is really welcoming us,” Devlin said. “We have different partners and suppliers in the community that are helping us as well.”

Flathead residents continue to battle a housing market that has priced many out of the region. Last month, the average sales price of a home in Kalispell was $734,119. Devlin said that while the organization usually receives about ten applicants for a home, 47 families applied to live in one of the new houses in Somers. 

Devlin is aware that her organization’s efforts cannot solve the housing crisis alone. She wishes the organization had “houses we could give away to everybody,” she said. “We take it one family at a time, one house at a time, one volunteer at a time.”

For those looking to help, there are a variety of opportunities available, including construction shifts, providing lunch donations and volunteering at Habitat’s Kalispell ReStore. More information on how to get involved can be found at www.habitatflathead.org or by emailing Devlin at outreach@habitatflathead.org. 

In addition to the many volunteer opportunities available, Habitat Flathead is gearing up for its first large fundraiser in its 33-year history. On Sept. 22, the organization will host “Lighting the Way Home” at Snowline Acres, a live and silent art auction with food from local caterer The Chef Guys and entertainment by performers Sundae + Mr. Goessl. Tickets can be purchased at www.habitatflathead.org. 

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