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Habitat house replaces eyesore

WILLMAR -- Jessica Cain, 27, of Willmar said she cried all day when she learned she'd been selected for a new Habitat for Humanity house.

"My 7-year-old said, 'Mommy, when are you going to stop crying?' ''

But Cain is all smiles as she anticipates moving from the crowded apartment that she and her two children share with her sister Amber Cain and her three kids into the new house at 402 Ann St. S.E.

Habitat for Humanity of West Central Minnesota will dedicate the Cain families' new home at 10 a.m. Saturday. The public is invited.

Habitat volunteers constructed the home where a decrepit two-story structure, declared a hazard by the Willmar City Council in November 2005, was demolished in May 2007.

Joline Hovland, Habitat volunteer and grants coordinator, said the former house was a neighborhood eyesore and was overrun with cats and other animals.

"People wanted to get rid of it,'' said Hovland.

Habitat was notified that the lot at the corner of Ann Street and Becker Avenue Southeast was for sale, and the lot was sold to Habitat at a reduced cost.

The new house has a finished basement with three bedrooms and a family room, and two bedrooms, bathroom, living room and kitchen on the main level.

Habitat had a family selected last year for the house, but the family was transferred to Michigan, said Hovland. She said the selection process was reopened, and Jessica qualified. Families are selected on the basis of need, ability to pay and willingness to be a partner with Habitat.

"And Jessica and Amber have put in sweat equity hours, more than enough,'' said Hovland. "They are so excited about getting this house. They'll be really good for the neighborhood.''

Jessica works full time at Day's Inn in Willmar and is working on her nursing degree at Ridgewater College. Her sister provides daycare for the children. They're looking forward to moving out of the apartment where they've lived for three years.

"We definitely needed more room and we're really excited about the yard,'' said Jessica. "I think I've said that about 3 trillion times.''

Habitat for Humanity was established in 1976 as an ecumenical, Christian housing ministry that provides simple, decent housing for low-income families. The organization holds fundraisers and receives donations of materials and supplies and grants from individuals, companies and foundations.

Site supervisors at the Ann Street project were Gary Lagerstedt of Spicer and Jerry Johnson of New London. The majority of the construction is donated by the site supervisors and volunteers.

The average cost of constructing a Habitat house in rural Minnesota ranges from $85,000 to $110,000, which includes the cost of the lot, donated materials and labor. Most homes are built slab-on-grade and range from 1,056 square feet to 1,337 square feet.

The Ann Street house was built with a basement because filling the hole left by the old house was too costly, according to Hovland. Houses with basements range from 2,064 square feet to 2,258 square feet.

"The program has gone well,'' said Hovland. "There is always a need because what we look for are people who live in deplorable conditions or are paying too much for rent, too crowded. They don't have the means, the income, to buy a conventional home loan, and this way they get a zero percentage interest mortgage and it's over a 30-year-period.''