‘I’m not going to have to worry’; Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on first home in Enterprise

ST. GEORGE — Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah broke ground on their 24th house in Southern Utah, the first to be built in Enterprise. 

Habitat employees, volunteers and sponsors gathered at the Enterprise property to celebrate the house’s groundbreaking at the beginning of August. 

The house will be located on one of two properties that the nonprofit acquired in the Enterprise Valley View Estates. 

Emily Thomas has been selected as the recipient of the house. Thomas was selected because she was experiencing home insecurity, something that many renters have had to go through, Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Kayo Skandunas said. 

“Emily was the best candidate because she was home insecure. We knew that she could be out of a house at any given amount of time,” he said. “She’s a hard worker; she drives all the way from Enterprise into Washington every single day for work. We want to partner with people who put forth that kind of sweat equity already.” 

Habitat for Humanity volunteers break ground on their 24th home, the first in Enterprise, Utah, Aug. 1, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, St. George News

The elderly landlords of the house Thomas has been renting recently decided to pass the home on to their son, who has not yet decided if he wants to continue renting the property or sell it. This leaves Thomas, who lives paycheck-to-paycheck, unsure of whether she would continue to have a place to live – or where she would go if she didn’t. 

“I wasn’t sure what was going on and what was going to happen,” Thomas said, “and I was kind of getting a little nervous.” 

Thomas currently commutes to her job at Albertsons in Washington City every day. She was one of seven applicants who applied for the Habitat house in March. Skandunas said because of a lack of awareness of how the organization operates, they received fewer applications for the Enterprise home than they have in other parts of Southern Utah. 

“I think there’s a tremendous need for affordable housing in Enterprise,” he said. “Our biggest hangup is people don’t think that they need affordable housing. They’re not willing to take it away from someone else.”

Thomas said she is excited that they are giving her the opportunity to own her own house. 

“I’m not going to have to worry about where I’m going to go,” she said. 

Coincidentally, Thomas has a 23-year-old son, and in addition to hoping he will be able to visit more now that she has the new home, she said she wants to someday pass the house on to him. 

Habitat is currently waiting on building permits so that they can start excavating and building the foundation. They already have the walls built, which they will transport to Enterprise once the foundation has been laid. 

Habitat for Humanity volunteers broke ground on their 24th home, the first in Enterprise, Utah, Aug. 1, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, St. George News

Habitat for Humanity of Southwest Utah has built 23 homes in the past 21 years, helping over 126 people become homeowners. Their purpose is to build safe, high quality affordable housing for families in Washington County who are between 60% and 80% of the area’s median income.

The organization partners with people in the community who are in need, giving them the opportunity to become homeowners. Habitat homes are affordable, providing homeowners with a 0% interest rate and making it so they never have to pay more than 30% of their monthly income on living expenses, including their mortgage, utilities and insurance.

House recipients are required to work 250 sweat-equity hours – volunteer hours which can be done on their own home or on another. Thomas will begin working on her hours this week. 

The location of Habitat for Humanity’s 24th home, the first in Enterprise, Utah, Aug. 1, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Habitat for Humanity, St. George News

Because Habitat’s presence in Enterprise has been limited until now, they have faced some challenges in recruiting volunteers and subcontractors in the area and are currently in the process of looking for some. 

Habitat has also announced a sponsored build program which will begin with the Enterprise build. Companies and organizations have the opportunity for their employees to join Habitat on a volunteer build day to practice team building and to help families in need. The sponsorship opportunities will range from $1,500 to $10,000. 

The next Habitat home will most likely be in Hurricane, and Skandunas said he hopes their next project will be a unit property, providing homes for three or four families. 

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