Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on four houses in Southwest Germantown

 Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Frank Monaghan of Habitat for Humanity breaking ground with future homeowner Quaseemah Carr and her daughter, Jornee. (Matthew Grady/for NewsWorks)

Councilwoman Cindy Bass and Frank Monaghan of Habitat for Humanity breaking ground with future homeowner Quaseemah Carr and her daughter, Jornee. (Matthew Grady/for NewsWorks)

Public and private officials – and a couple of lucky families – broke ground on Wednesday in Southwest Germantown for four new homes being built by Habitat for Humanity.

The four homes, to be constructed on the 400 block of W. Queen Lane near McKean Avenue, will be energy efficient three-story, three bedroom residences on a block with 98 percent occupancy. Habitat has built 23 homes in that neighborhood.

Partial funding for the project came from Bank of America, who presented a $50,000 check to support the residences, built by Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. The estimated price tag for the homes is $560,000.

In addition to the homes, Habitat officials announced that a Home Repair and Weatherization unit will be relocated to Germantown over the next year, with 15 projects planned during their inaugural months.

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“We’re really committed up into this area,” said Frank Monaghan, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia.

Future homeowners

Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, the local branch of the international nonprofit, was founded in 1985, and has built over 170 homes and provided critical repairs on 40 homes to date.

Partner families are required to contribute 350 hours of “sweat equity” in building their houses and others in order to qualify for the no-interest mortgage provided by Habitat, according to Habitat officials. The partner families’ efforts are bolstered by 2,800 volunteers annually, of which 500 will be involved with the Queen Lane site.

Quaseemah Carr, 27, a tax examiner currently living in Northeast Philadelphia, will be one of the Queen Lane partner families, along with her 3-year-old daughter, Jornee. Carr has been banking hours since September 2012, and currently has 225 hours of equity, along with some solid flooring experience.

“I always wanted to be homeowner by the age of 25,” Carr told the dozens present at the groundbreaking on Wednesday afternoon, “but 27 is not too bad.”

The homes will be built on a hilly parcel of land that neighbors recalled was once home to an apartment building that claimed a chapter of the Black Panthers as residents. The building was razed in the 1990s.

In order to prepare the site, Habitat officials needed city variances to expand the number of lots from three to four, and reorient the lots to face W. Queen Lane. The site, which is presently somewhat steep, will be leveled to provide easier entrance to the homes.

Habitat officials said that work on the site will begin as soon as next week, with construction expected to take 8 months.

Eighth District Councilwoman Cindy Bass voiced her approval of the project on Wednesday, relating that she is “always excited” by development in her district.

“Germantown is the largest part of my district, and it’s also a part that needs significant work,” she said. “We’ve been working on it, we’re continuing to work on it, we won’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

Neighborhood response

While some residents were concerned about the impact of the additional homes on the neighborhood and about the fate of a family of groundhogs that reportedly live on the site, most were enthusiastic about the project.

Lisa Hopkins, leader of Northwest Neighbors of Germantown, expressed enthusiasm for the homes, relating that her organization wrote a letter to the city in full support of the homes.

“We congratulate the homeowners,” she said. “Hopefully they become active in the community, and get involved and help us with our cause.”

Gilbert Rosa, a long-time Queen Lane resident who watched the ceremony from his bicycle, said he supports the project and Habitat for Humanity’s mission, noting that the homes are earned, not given away. Rosa felt that the homes would positively impact the neighborhood.

“It’s not where you live,” he said, “it’s how you live.”

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