WATERLOO — If you blink, you might miss the newest Habitat for Humanity house going up.
A process that normally takes as long as six months will unfold in only six days, as local contractors work together to “blitz build” a house at 1602 W. Sixth St. on the grounds of the old Washington Irving School, which was razed about two years ago after a replacement facility had gone up nearby.
It’s the first “blitz build” for Waterloo-based Iowa Heartland Habitat for Humanity, said Lindsay Pieters, spokeswoman for the local chapter.
“Other Habitats have done them — Cedar Rapids does three a year, and we actually worked with Cedar Rapids to get advice on the timing of each contractor and asking for sponsorships and that kind of thing.”
Local professional builders are recruited to work with Habitat and coordinate the project through completion, the organization says. Habitat for Humanity acquires land, develops the sites, provides house plans and permits, and selects future homeowners, while builders donate labor, funding and materials.
Because contractors recruit other builders and raise funds for the Habitat houses built during a blitz, and suppliers kick in with materials and additional labor, Habitat can serve more families without the usual tasks of raising funds and recruiting volunteers, said Lindsay Pieters, communications director with the local Habitat chapter.
“It’s actually a national initiative to include local contractors to help families buy an affordable home,” she said. “Getting that awareness. Getting other contractors involved to see if they can help.”
Actually, it’s not a “from the ground up” type of job: Walls and roof went up at the end of May. But, beginning Monday, more than 20 local contractors will converge on the structure to apply siding, windows, wiring, a heating/cooling system, plumbing, insulation, drywall, paint and everything else needed to complete the house by 4 p.m. Friday.
And it will be move-in ready for its recipients — Kay Reh and Su Meh, refugees from Myanmar who came to the U.S. three years ago, and their four children — sons Oo Reh, Aung Ta and Zarni Lay and daughter Nkay Aye Aye.
Kay Reh’s command of English is limited, but he said he is ready for the challenge of homeownership.
“As I’m a homeowner, I’m responsible to my home to maintain long life; I can manage my financial budget.”
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Habitat home recipients work off “sweat equity” on theirs and other projects, and Kay Reh and Su Meh will work some of their “hours” off on their new home, Pieters said.
“We are incorporating volunteers to work with our contractors,” she said. “Our family is just like our volunteers; There is scheduled time for some of our regular volunteers to help out at different hours of the day. Because of the timing, it’s just so carefully planned out, we’re going to stagger various contractors with various volunteers.”
The local Habitat organization hopes to do other “blitz build” projects locally, Executive Director Ali Parrish said.
“We’d love to do it, if not every year, every other year,” she said. “Some affiliates do two or three a year. I definitely see an opportunity to expand or at least continue it.”
The Kay Reh-Su Meh home will be the 132nd Habitat home to be completed in an area that includes Waterloo, Cedar Falls, Waverly, Evansdale, Parkersburg, La Porte City and Hudson, since 1991, Pieters said.
The Irving School site is being developed for other Habitat projects — up 14 houses, Pieters said.
“That site has been a kind of staple in the community and has been really unused for many years,” she said. “So, we’re excited for the opportunity to come in and reuse the space and transform it.”
It’s going to be a “unique” development, Pieters said.
“We’re going to do some unique home designs, kind of fit into the neighborhood,” she said. “We’ll vary the styles and match what’s around it. We want it to fit in. We want our families to have a safe place to live.”
For more information, call 235-9946 or go to heartlandhfh.org.