The vacant 2.5 acres south of the homes Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities is building in east Kennewick represent an opportunity.
It's where Rick Jansons, the nonprofit's executive director, says Habitat plans to build more homes in the subdivision known as Garden Court, near South Jean Place and Fifth Avenue.
It's also where Jansons and Brian Ace, executive director Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties, hope to work together to offer a safe place to support children in the neighborhoods between Amistad Elementary School and Park Middle School.
The two are working with the city of Kennewick, which owns the land, to build six more Habitat homes and a Boys & Girls Clubs clubhouse.
Originally, Jansons said Habitat had planned to build 30 homes on the property.
"We think building less houses and helping them establish a clubhouse, there is a better use of the resources for the community," Jansons said.
The housing density between Fourth and 10th avenues and Olympia and Garfield streets is high, said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg. There are many apartment complexes, and many of the residents live there for a short period of time before moving, he said.
Ace said the 10-block area has a need for community stabilizers like the Boys & Girls Clubs and Habitat to create safe places and a sense of community.
Boys & Girls Clubs is seeing kids at its Music and Arts Center in downtown Kennewick who would be better served by a traditional clubhouse with a gym and game room, he said.
At traditional clubs, children participate in activities meant to help with character development, a healthy lifestyle and academics, Ace said. Children pay $10 per year for membership.
Jansons said the effort may help decrease the likelihood that children will join gangs. Educational opportunities also will increase because of the homework help and extracurricular programs that Boys & Girls Club provides.
Hohenberg said he's already been impressed with what Habitat has accomplished.
The nonprofit's finished homes are attracting families who have taken ownership of their neighborhood and who plan to live there long term, Hohenberg said.
Officials hope to determine whether the proposed project can move forward this coming year.
Four homes are under construction in Garden Court. Jansons said those homes are among the nine Habitat plans to finish building next year.
Habitat finished its 84th house this year, building a total of six in 2013, Jansons said. He hopes to bring the total number of homes up to 12 a year by 2015.
The need for such homes is clear, with poverty rates on the rise, he said.
Habitat is looking at different home sites in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland, Jansons said.
He also hopes to expand efforts to Connell and Prosser and plans to work with the Walla Walla Habitat for Humanity on new homes.
The Tri-City nonprofit also supports international building efforts through tithes to Humanity International, Jansons said. Since its creation in 1994, Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities has provided 65 homes for families in developing countries. This year, it has provided seven homes in Malawi in Africa.
In the Tri-Cities, home prices are low, thanks to volunteer labor and donations that families can earn with their first home, Jansons said. Habitat for Humanity has been able to help longtime members of the community, as well as refugees from Eastern Europe, Southeast Africa and Southeast Asia.
The families chosen by Habitat are legal residents who have jobs and good credit, but who do not earn enough to get a conventional mortgage, Jansons said. The families tend also to be living in substandard housing.
"We select families that are hardworking," Jansons said. Families also have to work 500 hours on their home and other Habitat homes as part of the program.
Families pay the fair market value of their home, minus whatever grants Habitat is able to get, Jansons said. Each family receives a 20-year no-interest loan serviced by the nonprofit.
It takes about $50,000 to build a house, Jansons said. While the nonprofit gets volunteer labor and corporate donations, its still pays for supplies such as concrete and lumber.
Money that families pay for their mortgages also helps pay for the new homes, Jansons said.
This year, Habitat had its first family pay off its mortgage, Jansons said. The nonprofit services all of its own mortgages and has never had a foreclosure, he said.
Also, money earned at Habitat's Restore in Richland helps build almost two homes a year, Jansons said. The store accepts just about anything used that Lowe's and Home Depot sells new. They also refurbish furniture donations.
Having a home can change the trajectory of families, Jansons said. Instead of frequent moves where children go from school to school, they are able to stay at the same school which can help increase their chances of academic success.
The Habitat model is "helping people help themselves out of poverty," Jansons said.
How to help
Habitat for Humanity Tri-Cities needs volunteers, including unskilled laborers and skilled laborers, such as electricians, plumbers and framers, and donations of money, old building supplies and furniture.
Donations can be sent to 313 Wellsian Way, Richland, WA 99352 or call 943-5555.
-- Kristi Pihl: 582-1512; firstname.lastname@example.org