Valdosta Daily Times

September 6, 2013

Improving the City, One House at a Time

Matthew Woody
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — On Thursday, homeowner Vorice Harris, 68, was able to cut a red ribbon that stretched across the front porch of her new home, located at 806 York St. During the ribbon cutting ceremony, she was accompanied by Mayor John Gayle and Councilman Sonny Vickers.

Harris said, with a heartwarming smile, that she was very excited to cut the ribbon because she had never been able to do anything like that before. When asked about her new home, Harris said with enthusiasm, “I love it!”

Harris' family owned the house that was previously located on the property for over 100-years. It was originally purchased by her late grandmother around 125-years ago, then it was passed to her parents, and then to her. She lives there now with her two sons, Darren and Eddie, and she plans to keep the property within the family.

Executive Director of Valdosta-Lowndes County Habitat for Humanity, Stuart Mullis, came to the ribbon cutting for the house as Habitat served as the contractor for the rebuild. The home is now completely electric and an Energy Star certified home. The original home was a two-bedroom, two-bathroom home that occupied 900 square feet; now it is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with 1185 square feet. The project took 90-days which is the expected completion time, but Mullis said, “we're at the mercy of the weather.” He praised Richard Joyner, Rehabilitation Construction Coordinator, as the unsung hero of the city.

The City of Valdosta partners with Habitat for Humanity and other construction firms on builds as part of the city's goal to eliminate substandard housing in Valdosta by the year 2020. This build was funded by the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), Community Home Investment Program (CHIP), and the Federal Home Loan Bank (FHLB) of Atlanta funding.

Joyner said that so far, more than 300 houses in Valdosta have been either repaired or rebuilt by the annual Group Work Camp and the grant programs.

According to the City, these builds must be located within the City's Designated Revitalization Areas, and are rebuilt “using plans for KC-910 style homes derived from Hurricane Katrina – long narrow lots, 25 feet wide, 1185 square feet.”

In order to be qualified for a rebuild, the homeowner must be eligible and must reside in the home. The home is then inspected and “must be deemed unsafe for occupancy,” by both Joyner and the city marshals. Reconstruction typically costs over $60,000, which if more than 50 percent of the value of the home, makes it eligible for the grant funding.