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Southern Crescent Habitat's
town house development

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

With space at a premium in Clayton County, many communities have sought to build up, instead of out, in order to maximize space.

In keeping with that trend, Southern Crescent Habitat for Humanity dedicated a five-unit town home development this weekend, the first two-story dwelling ever built by the organization.

After five months of labor, five families -- all first-time homeowners -- moved into Peachtree Pointe Townhomes on Saturday. While height restrictions required the group to seek the help of professionals during the building process, volunteers pulled together to keep the town homes affordable.

"This was a little different project for us," said Cara Welch, chief development officer with Southern Crescent Habitat. She said Habitat typically builds "single-story, single family, detached homes," which range from 1,100 to 1,300 square feet of living space.

"These were two-story developments," said Welch. "Our insurance just doesn't cover [volunteers] doing framing and roofing at two stories ... we had to bring in professionals to do that."

Volunteers participated in "every other aspect of the house," however, according to Welch. Starting in April, large volunteer groups from Lowes, Morrow Civic Women's Club, and The Briggs Group worked on the five units. Then, May 5-9, 120 women participating in National Women Build Week, volunteered over 650 hours to help construct the town houses.

The five families themselves put 250 hours of "sweat equity" into their own town house, doing a large amount of interior work. The result is five, 1,500-square-foot units, using less space than it would take to build five standard Habitat homes.

Steve Teske, president of Southern Crescent Habitat, said a recent shortage of land has influenced the organization to be more inventive in regards to land acquisition and building.

"Up until recently, the acquisition of land wasn't really an issue," said Teske. "Clayton in land size is the third-smallest county in Georgia, but we're the fifth-most-populous county in Georgia.

"As land begins to shrink up, it becomes more practical in terms of home ownership to build town homes," said Teske.

Welch said Southern Crescent Habitat is "able to serve more families by being able to build in higher densities." She said the closeness of the units also saves Habitat money by decreasing the number of trips contractors have to make to service homes.

"When we get land donated, it can be from all over the county," said Welch. "Being able to send them to one location is extremely beneficial for us. It's not reinventing the wheel all the time."

Hugh Morton, president of Peachtree Homes, and a Southern Crescent Habitat board member, donated the lot on which the town houses were built. He believes two-story town houses may become the trend in Habitat projects.

"It's getting harder and harder to find lots that are affordable, or to find lots at all," said Morton. "[The town homes] gave them five houses very quickly. In some years, five was the whole year.

"It really brings the cost down," said Morton. "I think they are going to be doing a lot more of these in the future."

On Sept. 16, Southern Crescent Habitat will be begin work on the Avery subdivision, a 51-home community off Iron Gate Boulevard. For more information, visit www.schabitat.org.