Habitat for Humanity at Iowa State Fair builds a house in 10 days

Hammering. Drilling. Paint.

In the northwest corner of the Iowa State Fairgrounds — between Gate 13 and the Sling Shot — a team of Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers race against time to build a 1,158-square-foot, three bedrooms, two- bath house.

The team is determined to complete in 10 days a job that normally takes three to four months. On the final weekend of the State Fair, the completed home is set to be displayed at an open house. And by next week, the structure will sit on a ready foundation for Mei to move in with her adult son, Ming, who has a disability. Habitat executives have not released their last names.

Sometimes curious visitors stop by to inspect the process and ask questions about the house and Habitat for Humanity, which is part of the goal, said the organization’s communications director, Danny Akright.

“We always appreciate the opportunity to have some kind of special build more in the public spotlight,” Akright said. “We are seeing the kind of awareness and commitment that we hoped to see building at the State Fair.”

Des Moines Chapter builds 25-30 homes a year

Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that builds affordable homes for low-income families, helps with home repairs, and offers financial counseling and education classes. The Des Moines chapter has about 11,000 volunteers and builds about 25 to 30 homes each year, according to chapter CEO Lance Henning. This is the first construction at the Iowa State Fair since 2005.

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One in 10 Iowans spend more than 50% of their income on housing costs, although 30% is the optimal threshold, Henning said. In Polk County, it’s one in eight.

“We want to show our mission to create affordable homeownership, but we also want to raise awareness of the need for affordable housing throughout the state of Iowa,” Henning said of the fair’s build. “Sometimes people think that … the cost of housing is not an issue (in the state). It’s really an issue here too.”

Mei and her son Ming longed for more space and a sense of independence, they told Habitat for Humanity through an interpreter.

“Sometimes I can’t believe that at my age I can move into a new house in my own name,” Mei told Habitat.

A team of Habitat for Humanity staff and volunteers work to build a house at the Iowa State Fair, Monday, August 15, 2022.

The construction involves nearly 400 volunteers

Builders have come a long way since the first walls were framed on August 11, the first day of the fair. On Monday afternoon, the exterior was painted gray-blue, and workers plastered and glued the drywall inside while the rain pattered steadily outside.

Nearly 400 volunteers – business groups, young professionals, staff members and regular volunteers – are lending a hand in the construction of the house, which as of Monday still needed paint, trim, cabinetry and upholstery. ground, but Henning and Akright said the teams were ahead of schedule.

“We still build with the exact same quality,” Akright said. “We just have more hands on deck (and) a more focused build schedule.”

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Abbey Barrow has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity for at least eight years. She first joined the Drake University chapter as a student and is now a board member of Habitat’s Young Professionals Group.

Barrow said she was excited to do her part, spending several hours Saturday with her peers, installing cladding on the structure. She said the ability to rely on a compact schedule is a testament to the dedication of staff and volunteers.

“From what I understand, it would be a lot easier to just build the house on the site, but I think the Iowa State Fair is such an important event in this community,” she said. . “And I think the focus is on a lot of fun things…but I think being able to bring Habitat into this experience and say that affordable housing and supporting our neighbors is a huge part of this community as well…is a great idea. .”

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Working on the house offers “some inspiration”

Barrow works closely with those who are homeless or in unstable housing situations as the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program Coordinator for Homeward, a homelessness-focused organization in Polk County. Seeing the struggles in the daily lives of many members of the community makes her more sensitive to the impact she is having through Habitat for Humanity.

“I’m not the best at construction, but every day I go there,” she said. “I’m learning new things. I see what we can really do when we come together as a community and really focus on housing. It’s a bit of inspiration and a bit of good news for move me forward.”

Mei said she was grateful to the organization for caring for the elderly and disabled and intended to be very proud of her new home.

“I want my home to be a welcoming place for my children and grandchildren to come and visit,” she said. “I will be proud to bring my sisters from New York, and I look forward to meeting my neighbors and creating a sense of community.”

Virginia Barreda is a trend and general assignment reporter for the Des Moines Register. She can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @vbarreda2.

See the house

The Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity is holding an open house Saturday and Sunday before the house is moved to its permanent location on the 500 block of East 27th Street in Des Moines. Check out the finished product on the northwest side of the fairgrounds between Gate 13 and Grand Avenue.

To learn more about the Greater Des Moines Habitat for Humanity, visit https://gdmhabitat.org/.

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