Habitat for Humanity planning construction ‘blitz’ in Portland





By Lee Fehrenbacher, reprinted from the Daily Journal of Commerce

Neil Kelly's Habitat for Humanity Family

Ann Lund, more than most people, knows how both exciting and scary change can be.

Next month, after living in a small, cramped Northeast Portland apartment for more than a decade, Lund and her three children will move into a new home built by Habitat for Humanity and Neil Kelly. The 1,350-square-foot home will be nearly twice the size of the family’s apartment and will include a number of features to accommodate Lund’s 17-year-old daughter, Keeley, who has Rett syndrome.

No longer will Lund, a safety assistant for Portland Public Schools, have to share a bedroom. Her sons Zach, 22, and Tyler, 15, who have learning disabilities, will no longer have to carry Keeley up and down the stairs to the apartment or around inside. Lund is anxious about the move, which will change the family’s life dramatically.

“It’s going to feel different because I’ve always had people above me, on the side of me and everywhere else; I’m going to be there all by myself,” she said. “But I’m speechless on how much it’s going to improve our lives.”

The house will be constructed through Habitat for Humanity’s Home Builders Blitz program, via donations from local contractors. Because there are no construction costs, the Lund family will be able to purchase the home for a low cost with a 0 percent mortgage.

The program will run for a week – June 2-8 – across the nation and is expected to produce 200 homes. In Portland, four houses will be built – each by an individual local contractor – on Habitat’s development at Southeast 171st Avenue and Division Street.

Therese DuBravac and Kristine LeVernois, Neil Kelly designers, said it’s a rewarding program for contractors and designers. Vendors and subcontractors donated nearly $100,000 worth of building materials to the Lunds’ future home – a large amount in a down economy, DuBravac said.

“This is a really great opportunity to be able to give somebody something that they would never have otherwise have, but it also makes me recall what I have in my own life and to just be grateful for those things,” she said. “I can hardly wait for this family to move into this house for the first time, and I just can’t even imagine how awesome it’s going to be for them.”

The project presented a unique set of design challenges because of the family’s need for wheelchair accessibility and the short time span, LeVernois said.

“We tried to make it warm and wonderful, but it also stretched Teresa and I to be really creative about the materials,” she said. “To build a house in a week, you have to be very thoughtful about the design, but the details have to be simplified.”

The home will include a track-lift system that Keeley can use to get to the bathroom, which will have an accessible bathtub. Unlike the family’s apartment, the house will have hallways and a living room wide enough to let Keeley move around in her wheelchair. Additionally, the kitchen is designed so that Keeley herself can use a number of appliances.

All four family members, who presently share two bedrooms, will have their own in the new house.

“They’re excited that they can go and decorate their rooms and paint the walls whatever color they want,” Lund said. “We’ve always rented and they’ve never had that option. Tyler keeps saying, ‘I’m going to have more room, Mom.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, you’re going to have more room, but you’re going to have to keep it clean.’ ”

Lund is thankful to have some stability in her family’s future, especially for her daughter.

“I’m a single mom that works for a school district that might go on strike,” she said. “I’ve never had this much access for her – I’m thrilled.”

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