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VOL. 127 | NO. 110 | Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Building Blitz

Homebuilders construct five homes in five days at Trinity Park

By Sarah Baker

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Some of the city’s prominent homebuilders huddled up at McDonald’s on Winchester and Tchulahoma roads around 4:30 a.m. on Monday, June 4, trying to decide what the weather had in store for the first morning of the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis/Memphis Area Home Builders Association Home Builders Blitz.

Jose Gonzalez helps frame one of five Habitat for Humanity houses being built in five days at Memphis Habitat’s Trinity Park development.  

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

Sure enough, the skies would soon clear for six builders and their subcontractors to start work on five houses in Habitat’s Trinity Park neighborhood from June 4 to Friday, June 8. Memphis was chosen as the kickoff city for Habitat for Humanity International’s Builder Blitz 2012, largely due to the volume of houses it will produce in the five-day span.

The builder teams are Chamberlain & McCreery LLC; Grant & Co.; Hallmark Builders Inc. and Klazmer-Sklar LLC; Reid Homes Inc.; and Vintage Homes LLC.

When MAHBA president Jimmy Moore committed to the state homebuilders association last fall to host the event, he wasn’t sure if his organization could raise the funds. Because as guest television personality Steve Thomas said Monday morning at the kickoff ceremony, building is the one industry that has not bounced back in this economy.

“Because of the downsizing of most companies, it’s still a struggle for these builders because they don’t have the staff that they used to have,” Moore said. “Building in this tough economy – where a lot of people are doing it on a volunteer basis and donations are being made – that is what is so monumental about this.”

In addition to the homes being built this week, local builders worked on five more homes built by Memphis Habitat in spring 2011, bringing the total number of 2012 Memphis Home Builder Blitz homes to 10.

“We’ve partnered with Habitat in the past, but never anything to this magnitude,” Moore said. “We thought if this would be successful, it would be a great boost for our membership. We really wanted to get out and do something to let the general public know that we are still a viable organization.”

A new home typically takes about three to four months to complete, Moore said. And each house in Trinity Park costs about $75,000 “in sticks and bricks” for each builder team.

Construction crews work to complete five Habitat for Humanity houses in five days at Memphis Habitat’s Trinity Park development. Habitat and the Memphis Area Home Builders Association have joined forces for Home Builders Blitz 2012. 

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“This is something that the builders have to really stretch to do,” said Habitat director of construction and retail operations Greg Webb. “We just want to let the local people know that they’re still out here, they’re still doing their thing. They may not be doing as much as they used to, but they’re still doing it and it’ll come back.”

The weeklong blitz is a 24/7 event, with Code Enforcement checking off each task before the builders can move onto the next step. It’s quite an undertaking – considering stages like sheet rock alone usually take a week to finish – but the condensed schedule allows for camaraderie and a little friendly competition among builders.

“First of all, building a home in five days is something most people could never fathom,” Webb said. “We also have the builders that have challenges amongst themselves – they’re working with their peers, but they’re also working against their peers. The goal is to get the job done. The builders are competing and say, ‘Well, mine will be done Thursday at 7 p.m.’ or, ‘Mine will be done Friday at 10 a.m.’”

Builders participating in the nationwide program this year will work with more than 80 Habitat affiliates seeking to build and renovate more than 200 homes. Sixty-three of those homes will be built across Tennessee, the only state to hold a statewide Builders Blitz.

Tom Gipson of Raleigh, N.C., founded the Homebuilder Blitz in 2002. His idea with the one-week timeframe was for homebuilders to “take a vacation” for a week from their jobs while also contributing to an organization that helps others realize the American Dream of homeownership.

“To be honest, if we were trying to fill them in a month, I couldn’t do it because it just would be too disruptive on my normal work, but anybody can take a week,” Gipson said. “I think that’s why homebuilders have embraced it so much – it’s an opportunity for them to really make a difference in a relatively short period of time.”

The five homes built this week will complete Trinity Park, Memphis Habitat’s first planned development of 38 homes. The city of Memphis contributed more than $1 million to Trinity Park – about $450,000 for the infrastructure (lights, sewage, etc.) and subsequently $553,000 to help build several of the houses in the development.

Memphis Habitat works with low-income individuals and families who otherwise might not qualify for a traditional mortgage. Homeowners are required to attend 15 weeks of financial education classes with Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University and come up with a $1,000 down payment/emergency fund.

Habitat also asks that the homeowners complete 350 hours of “sweat equity” throughout the program, which includes working on their own home, other homeowners’ homes, and volunteering for Habitat in its ReStore, at its offices, at events or even volunteering for other nonprofits.

Upon completion of the entire program, the homeowners purchase the homes from Memphis Habitat via a 20- or 30-year zero-interest mortgage.

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