Volunteers make progress on Athol’s first Habitat home

  • Volunteer Kayla Fleurant stretches to apply spackle on drywall just put up at the Habitat for Humanity home under construction in Athol. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • This home, under construction at 362 Old Keene Road, is the first home built in Athol by Habitat for Humanity North Central Massachusetts. A family of five has been selected from many applicants to buy the home later this year. Staff photo/Greg Vine

  • Volunteers Kaitlyn Goguen and Bryan Reyes are working on the home being built by Habitat for Humanity at 362 Old Keene Road in Athol. Staff photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 7/20/2021 2:17:46 PM
Modified: 7/20/2021 2:17:50 PM

ATHOL — Last October, in the midst of a pandemic and under gray skies and steady rain, Habitat for Humanity North Central Massachusetts broke ground on a home that will soon house a deserving family of five. The first Athol project for the nonprofit organization is located at 362 Old Keene Road.

Habitat Executive Director Carolyn Read said despite some minor delays, the project is moving along nicely. When the Athol Daily News visited recently, volunteers were busy doing interior work on the home.

“We’re actually doing really well,” she said. “We’ve got all the walls closed in. We’ve got the roof on, our solar panels are installed, and right now we’re installing dry wall. So, we’re at the finish work stage.”

Read said COVID-19 did cause some delays for the project.

“We partner with Monty Tech (Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School) for this,” she explained, “so the pandemic did cause us a little bit of a delay. We were delayed finishing up our two previous houses in Ashburnham and then getting this one going. But Monty Tech really was a great partner and they really helped us to catch up.

“They will be back in September to help us finish up the electric, plumbing and HVAC. Then we hope to transfer the house to the homeowners and close in the fall.”

The delays, said Read, varied in nature.

“We have had some trouble with supplies,” she said, “and we had some delays with subcontractors because everyone was so busy. Getting someone to pour the foundation took us longer it usually would. So, we had some delays with subcontractors and materials are just more expensive right now. Plywood is crazy.”

Read also said the family chosen to occupy the home has, as required, been helping with the project,

“We have selected the family. We generally select them early enough in the process so that they can do their sweat equity. Dan, who’s the dad, has been working at the site and he changed his work hours so he could be at the site most Fridays, helping to build. And he comes out on the weekend, too.

“He’s also a carpenter, so he’s a great help.”

Read said the family consists of a mother, father, two girls and one boy.

“Right now, they’re living in an apartment in Fitchburg that’s way too small for them, and the conditions aren’t great,” she explained. “The dad originally grew up in Orange.”

She said about 300 people expressed interest in applying.

“So, we notified all 300. Then, for this house and for most houses, we usually get between 12 and 20 full applications. So, when we open the application process, we have information meetings and people will come and think about whether this is right for them at this time, whether the location works for their work — because we cover 30 towns.

“So, some of the 300, they work closer to the eastern side of our service area.”

Read also explained that, like every other homeowner, the lucky applicant does end up with a mortgage.

“When the family moves in, they do have a mortgage,” she said. “It’s a zero-interest mortgage. The payments are structured for what they can afford. We make sure they’re never paying more than 30 percent of their gross income for their housing costs. That would include the principle of the mortgage, their insurance, and their taxes.”

Read said it’s expected the family will be able to move in by sometime in October.

The home is being built on property that was donated to Habitat about three years ago by members of the Mueller family: brothers Brian and Christopher Mueller.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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