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Batten Builds: Habitat for Humanity

by Elena Weissmann, MPP 2014

On Friday, twelve Batten students braved the cold and joined Habitat for Humanity in their Project 20 initiative (to build 20 Habitat homes annually to address the affordable housing crisis in our community) at Belmont Cottages. 

Students from the post-grad, accelerated, and undergraduate cohorts came together to make some great headway on a series of three homes just 10 minutes from Grounds. The team, only slightly lured by the three dozen Bodos bagels waiting for them (and five types of cream cheese!), helped the Habitat crew counteract Charlottesville’s affordable housing crisis. Habitat’s partner families, who also contribute to the homes’ construction through what’s known as “sweat equity,” will soon be part of a mixed-use community in Belmont.

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A series of mixed-income residences in Belmont Cottages, built as part of Habitat’s Project 20 initiative.

Over 700 families in Charlottesville remain on the waitlist for last-resort public housing. Hundreds of Charlottesville schoolchildren are considered “homeless.” Even among those with homes, 245 families are awaiting critical repairs, and close to 4,000 families spend over half their income on housing. (Habitat website) Our work with Habitat contributed to their goal of building on existing assets to give low-income families a chance to move out of substandard housing without remaining subject to the dramatic rise in the price of buildable lots in Albemarle County and Charlottesville. 

The Batten crew flexed their powertool muscles, using jigsaws and nail guns like they were calculators and outcomes matrices. Our work at the site ranged from picking up donations to the Habitat store to installing drywall in two full bedrooms. During the lunch break, our hands were caked with caulk, mud, and honey pecan cream cheese, but we didn’t let that get us down. We returned to our work in the afternoon invigorated and inspired by the sweat on the brows of the crawl space team. 

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Jessica Rizzuto prepares rafters in a future bedroom to hang drywall sheets (hand-cut and installed by Batten students!)

At the end of the day, we were fatigued but felt accomplished at another successful Batten Builds project. 

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