Habitat Working To Meet Demand For Affordable Homes

The sounds of hammering echo off the wood framed house at the corner of 42nd Avenue and 20th Street in Gulfport. Building sounds are Habitat's favorite music.

The Harrison and Jackson County affiliates merged in January to form Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"We very much know that there's a lot more need than what we've been doing. But since January, since we merged, we've had 107 new home starts," said Chris Monforton, the chief executive of Habitat on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Put your hand down there, feel it and tell me which way I got to move this end," said the Habitat instructor, as a new volunteer rotated a wooden beam.

"To your right," the crew chief instructed.

Habitat instructors work with new volunteers to teach them the basics of home building. Eager volunteers catch on quickly.

"We have them coming from all over the country that work with us during the week. And they pick up things real quick. We give them all the instruction they need to build these houses. And they pick it right up and move right along and we get these houses built in a pretty short time," said Brackey Cooper.

Habitat can't turn out houses fast enough. The hurricane scarred coast has a seemingly never ending need for affordable homes.

"We have no shortage of need. Families are crawling out the window. We've got 144 applications we're looking at now and 114 partner families currently working on their sweat equity. Land is always a challenge, and of course money," Monforton explained.

Habitat homes on 45th Avenue in Gulfport are almost ready to move into. That multi-house project was part of Habitat's partnership with Americorps and its "build-a-thon" earlier this summer.

Monforton says families should be moving in later this month.

"We have 39 homes trimmed out, so we expect that in the next four to five weeks that we'll have 39 more homes completed and families moving in," he said.

Habitat leaders have a goal of building a thousand new homes on the coast in the next five years.