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HOME SWEET HOME: With the help of hundreds of community members and their own hands, the Owens family will soon have a home to call its very own

While painting, decorating, and home fix-ups may be what many homeowners dread, they are exactly what Randy and Patricia Owens are looking forward to when they become homeowners later this year.
The Owens family will be the beneficiaries of Holston Habitat for Humanity’s third building project in Jonesborough, a three-bedroom home, set to break ground at 791 Bacon Branch Road this Saturday.
Patricia Owens saw a story about Habitat for Humanity and its home-building projects in a magazine and applied to the program.
The family was renting a “real old mobile home in bad shape,” Randy Owens said, adding that it was too small but “we just basically couldn’t afford much better than we had.”
The Owens have three children who will be living in the home: Deanna, 17, Christain, 9, and Peyton, who is 8 months.
“The most exciting thing for my wife is knowing that it’s hers to take care of, and hers to do what she wants with,” he said. “She’s responsible for it, instead of having to ask a landlord before you can do anything, or complain to a landlord about fixing something.”
He said his wife is very excited about picking out paint colors and doing some interior decorating — something he said he plans on leaving all to her.
As for Randy, who grew up in Washington County, he said he’ll stick to the construction part of the project, where he has experience. But he emphasized how excited the whole family is about watching their house take shape.
“We’ve been there every day since they started digging the footers, and we go by there every afternoon,” he said.
Building is set to begin August 2, with most volunteer work beginning on August 7. The house is scheduled to be completed in 12 weeks.
It wasn’t a simple application that got the Owens approved for a house project, said Laura Swanson with Habitat.
When families apply to Habitat for Humanity, Swanson said, they must meet three criteria to be considered by the board for a home: They must show a need for better housing, have 40 to 60 percent of the area’s median income, and be able to carry a reasonable debt load based on their credit, Swanson said.
Participating families must also show a willingness to partner with the organization, and undergo a homeowner education program, which is five months of classes on how to be a successful homeowner, Swanson said.
The family is also required to perform 500 hours of volunteer labor, or “sweat equity,” as their committment to the program.
They also must participate in a down payment savings program, saving $50 a month over the course of 10 months, to establish a pattern of putting money aside each month for emergencies. That money is also put toward closing costs on the house.
The board approves the family, and when a group is ready to build a house, the family is matched with the project.
Only about 10 percent of people that apply actually make it through the process, Swanson said.
“The economy makes it harder now to find people with credit that makes it likely they will be able to succeed at homeownership,” Swanson said.
But now that the family and project have been matched, the fun part begins: the build.
However, the project still needs both donations of money, materials, and food for the volunteers, as well as people to help build or be “site hosts,” Swanson said.
“Our volunteers don’t need to be skilled [in construction],” Swanson said. “One thing we need are what we call site hosts, who welcome volunteers, give out nametags, show them where the first aid kit is, and things like that. They’re to help people have a good experience, something that requires no skills other than the ability to socialize.”
If volunteers would prefer to build, they are also very welcome, she said.
Habitat buys most of the materials for the house, with a three-bedroom needing around $35,000 to $40,000 worth. Around $30,000 in donations and materials is collected from the community.
The houses are then sold for anywhere between $60,000 and $70,000, which includes land costs, Swason said.
“Of course, the houses are worth around $100,000, but the reason we can [sell below cost] is the volunteer labor,” she said.
Profit from one house goes to costs for more projects
This is Habitat’s third project in Jonesborough, with two other houses built in 2005 and 2007.
“This group has been so effective, and with the response we’ve already gotten from community, we’re hoping keep going,” Swanson said. “We hope to build every year in Jonesborough.”
Call the local Habitat for Humanity office at (423) 239-7689 to find out more information on how to donate or volunteer.