An example of the type of home to be built by Our Towns Habitat in 

the Burke Dale community of Mooresville. (Courtesy of Ginny Stehle)

CORNELIUS – A partnership between Our Towns Habitat for Humanity and the Town of Mooresville is fueling the construction of an entire neighborhood of energy-efficient homes in the Burke Dale subdivision.

It'll start with building four homes by the end of August, according to Deputy Town Manager Ryan Rase.

This $3 million investment in Burke Dale – one that covers the construction costs of 21 homes – will turn it into the first LEED-certified community in North Carolina. 

The U.S. Green Building Council developed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards in 1998 to help building owners become conscious.

"Some of our homeowners, they're only paying around $40 a month on their heating bills because we focus so much on LEED," Our Towns Executive Director Paul Robinson said. "The houses are that tight, so energy doesn't leak out."

Founded in 1988, Our Towns is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a Christian housing ministry. It's served Mooresville, Davidson, Huntersville and Cornelius for 25 years, constructing 99 homes and helping 250 families along the way.

To celebrate hitting the quarter-century mark, the group raised $50,000 and received an additional $25,000 from an anonymous donor to construct The House that Love Built. Groundbreaking on the home on Titan Avenue in Cornelius took place in October.

Our Towns' 100th home is underway at 361 Moore Ave., Mooresville. Robinson hopes to have it complete by March. It typically takes 12 to 14 weeks to build a Habitat house.

"For me to be happy or satisfied with what I'm doing, I need to know that it's making a difference," Robinson said. "We're doing stuff that helps people help themselves. It's not a matter of going in and giving people things."

To qualify for a Habitat house, an applicant must be willing to perform at least 400 hours of volunteer work. Applicants also earn incomes that fall between 30 and 60 percent of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's standards for median income in the counties they reside in. 

Mortgages for two-to four-bedroom homes are zero-interest but generally cost the owner between $75,000 and $90,000.

Although it costs about $130,000 to build a Habitat House, Director of Development Ginny Stehle said in-kind donations from businesses like Lowe's, Ingersoll Rand and Bank of America help keep costs down.   

She estimates church groups and individuals donated roughly 50,000 volunteer hours to Our Towns in 2013.

In 2014, Robinson said the group wants to expand its critical repair program to help more homeowners who have less ability to repay upkeep costs.

The program addresses issues related to health and safety such as designing a walk-in shower for an older adult.


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