A habitat for families

Jonathan Avrett thought it would always be impossible to buy a home in San Luis Obispo.

Then one early morning, he noticed a newspaper ad for Habitat for Humanity’s first homes in the city.

He, his wife, Jamie, and their 2-year-old son, Forrest, are now only months away from owning their first home on Phillips Lane near downtown San Luis Obispo.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes with volunteers who work side-by-side with the families who purchase the completed homes.

The lot, on which two homes are being built, was purchased with $250,000 from the city’s housing funds.

The Avrett family will be joined by neighbors Juan and Maria Rodriguez and their three sons in May when the homes are complete.

Families must contribute 500 hours of labor in the construction process or at the nonprofit’s ReStores, which sell home improvement items and building materials.

Avrett, 26, long ago completed his “sweat equity” hours but plans to be at the site, helping to build his family’s home, every chance he gets.

“It seems like every homeowner should do this,” Avrett said. “If something breaks, I’ll know exactly what it is and how to fix it.”

Building homes below market price in San Luis Obispo is often difficult because of the high cost of land, said Julia Ogden, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of San Luis Obispo County.

Partnering with cities to purchase land for subsidized housing is one way to move forward, Ogden said.

Acting as the city’s Redevelopment Agency board, the Paso Robles City Council recently approved spending $270,000 on a six-house project proposed by Habitat for Humanity.

“We are one of the few nonprofits in the area that builds homes for low-income people,” Ogden said. “We are actually one of the few organizations that is building at all right now because of the high cost of construction.”

The average cost of building a Habitat house ranges between $120,000 and $140,000. Houses are sold to families for $100,000 through a no-interest mortgage. Grants and other funding help fill the gap.

Ogden said monetary donations and volunteers keep the nonprofit moving forward.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939. Stay updated by following @a_cornejo on Twitter.