Habitat for Humanity of Summit County President and CEO Rochelle Sibbio fielded a call recently from someone asking how they could get a “free” home.
She took the time to correct the caller.
Families work hard for these homes. Not only do they take on the financial burden, but Habitat requires families to put in 250 “sweat equity” hours, including making lunches for volunteers on the build site or working on the house themselves. They also have to complete homeowner education courses where they learn about their mortgage, home maintenance and safety, and more.
“They can get donated hours from family and friends that come and help them build,” Sibbio said.
Children can help as well by getting good grades. Each “A” on a child’s report card counts as one sweat equity hour.
“We want them to feel a part of this process, too,” she said.
The same will be true about the new development the organization is building in North Hill called Silver Maple Ridge.
The 16-home development will be situated on a city-donated lot at Hollibaugh Avenue and Dan Street and will feature the first new Akron city park in 40 years.
During the final phases of construction in the spring of 2025, area residents will be able to provide input about what amenities they’d like to see in the park.
“Would you want there to be a playground area?” Sibbio asked. “Would you want it to just be green space with picnic tables and benches? Would you want a fenced-in dog park area? What would you want to see that roughly 1.4-acre section become?”
Affordable options for home ownership in Akron
Since Sibbio began leading Habitat for Humanity of Summit County in 2006, the nonprofit has built roughly 125 homes in the county, including an eight-home development on East Avenue.
The need is great, she said.
“In the city of Akron alone, we have a shortage of like 15,000 affordable units,” said Sibbio.
While she expects the homes to be appraised at approximately $200,000, they’ll be sold to qualifying families for less.
“There will be HOME subsidy dollars here which are federal dollars that flow from (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to the city, and then the city subcontracts with us,” said Sibbio. “So there will be $55,000 of subsidy put on as a silent second mortgage for each family, so it will write it down to about the $145,000 mark. As well, each family has to put $5,000 cash down, so then it’s $140,000, 30-year zero-interest mortgage.”
More details about Silver Maple Ridge
Sibbio points out that affordable doesn’t mean cheap. The homes will be well-built.
Each home is a 1,200-square-foot, single-story house featuring an attached one-and-a-half car garage and a full basement. All but one of the homes will have three bedrooms. The outlier is a four-bedroom home being built to accommodate a larger family.
Silver Maple Ridge will be built in three phases beginning soon after the lot is cleared and graded, and building permits are secured. Sibbio said she anticipates the foundations for the first six homes to be dug in December or January, depending on the weather.
After the first six houses are complete in early summer of 2024, construction will begin on the next six.
“Then, the final four houses should be dug by early 2025,” said Sibbio.
During this phase, conversations about the park will begin.
Building community by building homes
There’s more to the development than just houses and a park.
The people who will eventually inhabit these homes will stitch their fabric into the neighborhood’s existing quilt, adding to it the fellowship created while progressing through Habitat for Humanity’s programming.
Sibbio said Habitat welcomes community involvement in building these homes.
“We want volunteers to sign up and come here and have an experience of building on-site,” she said, “knowing that then they can drive by here years later and say, ‘oh, that house right there, I put the siding up there,’ or, ‘I put the windows in there,’ and know that they, too, have been a small part of making an impact on the family.”
After 18 years with the organization, the most exciting part for Sibbio is still the day that Habitat for Humanity turns over a home to a family at a dedication ceremony.
Seeing families get what they’ve labored to obtain, and her part in changing their lives, brings tears to her eyes.
“Years later,” Sibbio said, “you get invitations to high school graduations, you get invitations to weddings, invitations to baby showers for the children who have grown up in these homes.
“It’s a heavy weight to bear that you know that you’re changing the life of a family in such a positive, impactful way.”
Contact reporter Derek Kreider at DKreider@Gannett.com or (330) 541-9413
This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Habitat for Humanity to build 16 homes in North Hill in Akron