Belfast Telegraph

Sweat over as family gets a Habitat home

by Aurelia Kanounji

The community has rallied around six families in Madrid Street, with over 1,000 volunteers helping them build new homes.

The Habitat For Humanity project took a year to complete with volunteers coming from far and wide — including Stormont, when First Minister Peter Robinson and a group of MLAs mucked in. The houses are highly energy efficient.

Glen Mawhinney (28) and Stephanie Baxter (23) and their two young children make up one of the families participating in this project.

Stephanie said: “I never realised there would be so many people out there willing to help others, the volunteer support has been incredible.”

Local to the area, this family rented a house on Madrid Street for three years. This left them unable to access the finances they needed to buy their own home.

Stephanie said: “The Habitat programme was the ideal opportunity for us to own our own home in a community we are happy in.”

They joined the project, which offers families a non-repayable partnership grant as a deposit to unlock otherwise inacessible mortgage finance, in 2010.

In return, the families invest ‘sweat equity’ — a minimum of 300 hours of their own labour — to build their homes and those of their neighbours.

During the project Glen hurt his leg and so was unable to contribute sweat equity to the project but his Dad stepped in and alongside Stephanie has been on site every week. Stephanie said: “We didn’t know what to expect from the project, but it’s been an amazing experience.

John and Marlene also participated in the Madrid street project. Moving in this Friday, Marlene said that although it was hard work throughout the summer and winter months, the experience has exceeded their expectations. “It all came together,” she said. “We couldn’t believe it”.

The project is part of the wider regeneration of the east Belfast area and demonstrates that effective partnerships can deliver sustainable housing solutions for local families.

Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland’s new local project is now underway at Templemore Avenue, and will also deliver six affordable homes for low-income families

Habitat for Humanity is hosting an information evening for families interested in becoming homeowners at the new Templemore Avenue project on Tuesday April 19, 7-9 pm, Oasis Centre, Castlereagh Street. They can also contact Tom O’Dowd by emailing tomod@habitatni.co.uk or call 028 90 262945.

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