May 08, 2021
Local News

Habitat for Humanity builds its first homes in Batavia

Groundbreaking on held Wednesday with new homeowner

BATAVIA – Habitat for Humanity is well on its way to building four new single-family homes on Batavia’s west side.

On Wednesday, the nonprofit builder of affordable homes paused just long enough to celebrate its progress, break ground on another house and welcome its new homeowner to the community.

Janice Owino of Aurora said she will never forget the telephone call announcing that her application for the program had been accepted.

“I couldn’t believe that I was getting my forever home where I will have a lifetime of memories with my husband and future kids,” Owino told the crowd that had gathered for the ground-breaking ceremony for the house. “No words can explain our excitement.”

The Owino couple is originally from Kenya and Janice’s husband George is in that east African country now waiting for a visa.

U.S. embassies around the world have suspended the issuance of visas because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the couple waits to be reunited, plans are to pour the foundation early next spring and to have the house ready for occupancy about a year from now, said Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity CEO Jeffrey Barrett.

The Owino home will be one of four on a half-acre property located at 1600 W. Wilson St.

The development site is just a block east of Randall Road, sandwiched between commercial businesses on Independence Drive to the west and residences on Spuhler Drive to the east, along the south side of Wilson opposite the Ace Hardware store.

More than a decade ago, a city of Batavia water tower was removed from the site and the property remained vacant.

In recent years, the city entertained various development proposals, including one for 12 apartment units and another for six single-family homes, before ultimately settling on the Habitat plan.

The development is a cooperative effort between two local affiliates of the national home-building group.

While the Owino home is to be built by Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity based in Montgomery, the other three houses are projects of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Fox Valley headquartered in Elgin.

Two of those houses are already framed and are expected to be ready for occupancy next spring.

Habitat’s formula to build houses is designed help lower-income people achieve the American dream of home ownership.

Buyers go through an application and approval process in order to receive a zero-interest loan, Barrett said.

In addition, the buyers are required to roll up their sleeves and work between 250 and 500 hours on construction of their homes side-by-side with Habitat volunteers, Barrett said.

The ground-breaking ceremony, organized by the Batavia Chamber of Commerce, featured Mayor Jeff Schielke, state Rep. Karina Villa, D-West Chicago and Batavia United Way Executive Director Melinda Kintz, who delivered on an $8,000 grant for the project.

First Centennial Mortgage of Aurora is the project’s major financial sponsor, donating $175,000.

In addition, in-kind donations are being provided by Bulldog Plumbing of Batavia, AAA Door Teks of Batavia and HVAC contractor Orange Home Services of Elburn.

Habitat uses volunteers for general construction, but all specialized trade work including the foundation, roof, plumbing and electric work is contracted with professionals.

Tom Rentner, site supervisor from the Northern Fox Valley affiliate, was back at work on the two homes already under construction, after the ground-breaking ceremony had ended.

Rentner said each of the homes covers about 1,400 square feet and include two full-bathrooms.

The “sweat equity” required of the buyers in a Habitat project helps the new owners appreciate what they have, Rentner said.

“When you start working with the families, you see an immediate impact and the big difference that this is making in people’s lives,” Rentner said.

There also is a spiritual component to Habitat’s home-building program that did not escape Janice Owino’s notice.

“I was impressed by their vision, which is seeking to put God’s love into action by building homes and bringing people together,” Owino said.

The third of the Northern Fox Valley affiliate homes is expected to be constructed next year at roughly the same time as the Owino home.