Ground broken for Habitat for Humanity

Seven people in hard hats pointing golden shovels into a mound of dirt with people sitting in seats before them.

By Jammel Cutler Columbia-Greene Media May 23, 2023

Photo Courtesy of William Husson Philmont Mayor Brian Johnson at the podium, at right is Village Trustee Debra Gitterman.

PHILMONT — Habitat for Humanity, in celebration of its 30th anniversary, broke ground on two new homes on Eagle Street on Friday.

Approximately 35 people attended the groundbreaking ceremony. The two new homes will be the 26th and 27th Habitat has built over its three decades. The homes will be three-bedroom, two-bathroom dwellings.

The homes will be marketed to first-time home buyers open to single families or large families. They are priced so they are affordable under federal guidelines. The price will be no more than 30% of gross family income. Construction of the homes is priced at $300,000 each. Habitat hopes to have a home dedication and welcoming ceremony within the next year.

Al Bellenchia, executive director and CEO of Habitat for Humanity, is confident that the new homes will attract young homeowners to the area.

“The family pays what they can afford, so we can fill that gap in what the family can’t afford to pay,” Bellenchia said. “That gap is where the community comes in. The community has always helped raise the money to fill that gap. That is why we’re a nonprofit organization, because we’re able to do that through fundraising, grants and donations.”

Habitat for Humanity, through state grants, private donations and its own subsidy, will make up the difference for the cost of the homes. The new homes have been supported by village officials.

“The village has been great in supporting our desire to build there,” Bellenchia said. “We started this whole process back in 2018 when the parcel became available from the village. “Through COVID and all the planning, the village has been 100% supportive, which showed during the groundbreaking.”

The two homes represent the first new construction by Habitat for Humanity since the onset of the pandemic.

“It’s great to be building again,” Bellenchia said. “We haven’t had any new construction since COVID, and it’s great to kick this off. It’s our 30th anniversary, and we’re excited to be able to celebrate that by building new houses. The groundbreaking was a great day for everyone involved.”

Affordable housing is in flux in cities across America due to the economic fallout from the pandemic and other economic and political hardships. Despite this, Habitat for Humanity is what it can to stimulate the housing market in Columbia County, Bellenchia said.

“Home ownership is an anchor for community revitalization, he said. “Philmont recognizes that to make progress in bringing new life to the village, they need houses that working families can afford. Columbia County is recognizing that they have a housing problem, and in terms of home ownership Habitat is the only real option available to build homes that working families can afford to own.”

In addition to the new homes in Philmont, Habitat for Humanity plans to build new homes in other parts of Columbia County.

“This is a kick-off to a more active building program,” Bellenchia said. “We have committed to building more homes within the next few years and we are looking to create partnerships with new communities.”

Columbia County Habitat for Humanity has served local low-income individuals and families for 30 years by building 25 homes in six local communities and providing critical repairs and accessibility improvements in many more.

Qualifying home buyers must have a need for housing, show proof of income and be able to pay a mortgage. They have to participate in the construction of the home with the Habitat for Humanity through the Sweat Equity program.

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View updates on the Eagle Street project.