Coming soon: Three Habitat homes in Princeton

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The city of Princeton agreed at its May 4 study session on the particulars of a deal with the East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity chapter to build three affordable homes in Princeton by the end of 2018.
Habitat for Humanity signs appeared shortly after the decision on the three Princeton sites: Two are owned by the city at 609 Old Highway 18 S. and 809-903 Ninth Ave. N., near the Casey’s on Rum River Drive. Habitat owns the other one at 309 Ninth Ave. S., across from Triangle or Veterans Park.
Community Development Director Jolene Foss reminded the council in April that the city has been working with Habitat to develop homes on the two sites using funds Princeton procured some years ago through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
NSP funds must be used for certain kinds of development activities, and they have an expiration date. Council members have agreed they need to use the funds, estimated in one city memo to be around $100,000, before they expire.
The East Central Minnesota Habitat for Humanity chapter had requested donation of the two city-owned lots, a waiver of the $8,800 worth of sewer- and water-connection fees and extension of water and sewer to the future home on Ninth Avenue South.
The council offered Habitat an additional 10 percent discount on the sewer and water access charge fees and said it would investigate the cost of extending the sewer and water service.
Foss explained at the May 4 study session that Habitat could not afford to pay the sewer and water access charges and would need the water-sewer extension – estimated to cost about $15,000 – to be able to complete the projects.
The council agreed to do the extension so that the three homes could get built and the NSP funds could be used.
Princeton will also contribute property surveys, title insurance and performance of environmental reporting, which the city’s documents state has already been done with NSP funds. The city also agreed to provide discounted camping fees when construction volunteers begin coming to Princeton next year.
Excitement builds
Local Habitat for Humanity director Wayne Eller said, “I am so excited to start this project I can barely contain my emotions.”
Eller makes clear that he considers the deal pending until he’s received the legal paperwork from Princeton’s attorney. However, he acknowledges it looks likely that Habitat will build the three homes.
He said there are already four Habitat-built homes in the city. The organization partners with families to build affordable housing that including taxes, insurance and mortgage usually cost less than they pay for rent.
“We have housed approximately 160 children and their respective families,” Eller said about Habitat’s efforts.
The local Habitat chapter serves Mille Lacs, Isanti, Chisago, Pine and Kanabec counties. The chapter has built a total of about 40 homes in the region, two of which were total rehabilitations and the rest of which were new home builds. Partner families exert at least 265 hours of effort – their “sweat equity” – on the build.
Eller said Princeton has been wonderfully generous in the past, including church groups, individuals, businesses and the city.
The International Brotherhood of Electricians donates services, and he said lots of area tradespeople donate work, since some of the home building tasks must be done by a licensed professional.
If the deal moves forward, Eller said Habitat would begin family-partner selection for the Princeton homes in August or September. After that, the organization knows what kind of structure it will be building and therefore how big a foundation to pour. The home foundations would be installed before winter and then construction on the homes would take place next spring.
He said the organization will be soliciting applications from veterans for the home to be built across from Veterans Park on Ninth Avenue South. Eller also said that before building begins next year, Habitat would hold a community meeting at the Princeton Area Library.
Eller said it’s good for people to be aware that Habitat is a tax-exempt, nonprofit entity. People can call the office for information but should be aware that the local chapter is staffed by part-time volunteers who return calls and emails as soon as possible.