Habitat getting away from single-family homes

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COEUR d’ALENE — Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho is laying the foundation for the future of affordable housing in the area.

The nonprofit’s first multi-unit housing project, Kunkel’s Corner, is set to begin in September with a groundbreaking ceremony. The project represents a shift away from single-family homes, which are no longer cost-effective to build in North Idaho.

“The demand here is forcing up the price of land in every location,” Executive Director James Casper said. “It doesn’t matter where you go. Land is more expensive than it used to be even three or four years ago.”

Kunkel’s Corner will provide affordable housing for six families. Each adult will invest hundreds of hours of labor — “sweat equity” — into the construction of the new home. When the unit is completed, the families assume a mortgage like other homeowners. This is an interest-free, nonprofit loan that covers the costs of the house and land.

New homeowners’ mortage payments are combined with no-interest loans provided by donors and money earned by fundraising in order to build more homes for other families.

“The person who’s getting help now is working to help someone else in the future,” Casper said.

Kunkel’s Corner is named after Greg Kunkel, a repair supervisor of the Brush with Kindness program, which revitalizes existing homes through painting, planting and general repair and improvement.

Kunkel died in 2016. The groundbreaking ceremony is in part a celebration of his contributions to Habitat for Humanity of North Idaho.

“We’d like to take the opportunity to honor his memory,” Casper said.

The six-family housing unit will be built on a land trust. Families will own their homes, but not the land itself.

“That land is permanently reserved to create a long-term affordable housing stock,” he said.

Because Habitat does not have to turn a profit, Casper said it could provide opportunities that the regular housing market doesn’t — namely affordable homes for working people.

“We can create a slice of the pie that is effectively reserved for that affordable purpose,” Casper said.

The Kunkel’s Corner groundbreaking is 9 a.m. Sept. 7 at 601 Neider Ave., Coeur d’Alene.

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