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11/10/23 Williamsport City Councilman Vincent Pulizzi and his wife, Selina, a Realtor, say they could not be happier to be contributing to the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity mission. “We want people to feel safe, people to move here and a place where you can move your family,” Vince said at a Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity kick-off event at the Pennsylvania College of Technology Tuesday morning. A recent rental property incident provided further reason for their supporting the cause and mission of Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity. “It all starts with the home,” he said. “That is where you get your guidance from, where you learn about love, family, compassion and the future.” “If we can give more people access to that knowledge and those resources, on how to purchase a home, it is going to benefit the individual, but also is going to benefit their children and the community.” Those who own a home have something to be proud of and they’ve accomplished something,” he said. “They have ownership in something bigger than themselves.” Studies show homeowners live healthier, happier lives. Selina noted how homeownership creates “generational wealth.” “People really begin to learn financial literacy … which is not always taught in the schools.” Options exist for those who may think they have too much debt, whether college-related or who do not believe they can get a mortgage, “especially with what Habitat is doing,” she said. “They say it takes a village to raise a child, but by working together, supporting each other and giving a hand-up to those who need it most, I think we can really make a difference for these families,” she said.
‘Home Is…’: Habitat for Humanity shares goals for its next five years
11/10/23 Homeownership truly is the American dream, but that isn’t possible for many in Greater Williamsport. Barriers such as high costs and mortgages prevent some of the more vulnerable individuals from reaching that goal of home ownership. Now, the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity, which has built 54 affordable homes for low-income families since 1989, has a new campaign goal. Over the next five years, Habitat, 335 Rose St., will oversee 11 home builds for limited-income families and seniors in the City of Williamsport and South Williamsport. “I am excited to join this dynamic board and staff at such as important point in the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity’s history,” said Robert “Bob” Robinson, new executive director of the organization, who shared stories about his time at the University of Chicago, and how he was excited to lead the team on its mission. He acknowledged homeownership has not been possible for many due to affordability barriers, especially for some of those individuals who have historically been barred from experiencing the benefits and value of owner-occupied living. The annual kick-off for a campaign is called “Home Is.” Home means different things for people — security, safety, comfort, love … etc. Some of these and other concepts were shared at Le Jeune Chef, on the campus of Pennsylvania College of Technology. Those gathered at the restaurant learned about the latest homeownership plans including six houses on Scott Street, four in South Williamsport and more on the way. Partnerships with families and donors “A lot of folks think that a Habitat home build is a free home,” Robinson told the Sun-Gazette. Nothing can be further from the truth. Habitat does not simply hand over keys to their homes, but, rather, creates a partnership with its homeowners. Each is required to qualify for a mortgage that the family can afford, which equates to no more than one-third of their household income, and they also must contribute up to 250 hours of “sweat equity” to building their home, he said. In prior years, the organization built one house every 12 to 18 months, but in order to respond to increasing numbers of low-income and poverty-related issues exacerbated by COVID-19 and the subsequent housing crisis, that will be stepped up, officials said. Partners galore Penn College and Habitat are involved in a joint house build project on Fifth Avenue, one using solar energy to reduce costs. Robinson also described efforts to add courses that would instruct Habitat participants in how to change windows and place drywall, further minimizing costs for families by teaching them ways to maintain their homes. Currently, there is a demand and need expressed by many who’ve approached Habitat officials, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent housing crisis, as rental prices rise and mortgage interest rates increase, he said. More often than not, these are income-eligible families and seniors who want a permanent residence in which to live in peace and security, close to schools, colleges, stores, health care facilities, parks, entertainment venues and natural surroundings — all of which the city and other areas in Lycoming County offer. Scarcity of safe and affordable housing Most low- and moderate-income families and seniors are experiencing a lack of affordable, safe and secure housing in the area and across the nation. With the county’s annual poverty rate at slightly more than 24% of its population — double the national average — prioritizing affordable housing is considered by Habitat officials as critical to various communities’ growth, Habitat officials said. Besides the 11 home builds in the next five years, the organization is developing a model for sustainable affordable housing, with not only construction but also maintenance. The families participating will partner with the organization from application to paying-off their mortgage. Moreover, the local Habitat office staff collaborates with other organizations to develop creative connections which are assisting people who are transitioning to permanent owner-occupied housing. The process involves assisting families with down payments, escrow, closing costs, mortgage and maintenance emergencies, Robinson said. The organization advocates at the local, state and federal levels for policies supporting affordable housing. “We are grateful for the 200 to 250 volunteers who partner with us, with varying levels of expertise and experience,” said Garret Sanner, Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity board president. From financial to material contributions from donors, the mission, to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope, will continue with assistance from the generous donations from the public, officials said. Their work has included building or renovating 54 homes for low-income families these past 33 years. To learn about the annual giving campaign “Home Is,” go to www.lycominghabitat.org/.
Penn College Donates Property as Future Site for Habitat Home
10/3/23 The Pennsylvania College of Technology has donated a Fifth Avenue property to the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity for construction of a single-family home by students. The build will add to the neighborhood’s character and return the property to the tax rolls, according to a news release from the college. The parcel, located at 508 Fifth Ave., had been purchased by the college in 2015 and a building, which had housed a tavern at the site, was razed. The college’s board approved donating the property to Habitat at a recent meeting. “Building sustainably affordable housing is key to addressing the growing housing gap in the U.S. This means that as we continue to build new homes, they must be built cost-effectively and also be economical to maintain for the homeowner,” said Robert Robinson, executive director of Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity, according to the news release. “The goal of this joint commitment is to build a ‘net zero’ structure that fits these critical objectives. Successfully implementing this will allow us to develop a model to propagate this environmental approach in future builds, while engaging students — our future construction leaders — in this new way of thinking. We can’t wait to get started.” Ellyn A. Lester, assistant dean of construction and architectural technologies, and project manager for Penn College, said that the college is excited for the project to become a reality. “So much preparation has already taken place to get to this point — and there’s much more to go — even before the groundbreaking next summer,” she said, according to the news release. “In the meantime, our core team will be working on final design details, a project estimate and the construction schedule, which is more complicated as the work must also align with the learning outcomes in quite a few classes,” Lester said. Planning has already included much of the academic community, including team members from building construction technology, as well as the concrete science; electrical construction; heating, ventilation and air conditioning technology; and heavy construction equipment technology: operator emphasis programs, according to information from the college. Garret L. Graff, assistant professor of building construction technology, will coordinate on-site activity as construction supervisor on behalf of the college. Penn College’s investment in the project — including land acquisition and demolition — is estimated at $175,000. In late March, the Lycoming County Commissioners approved a grant for $100,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding for construction materials for the project. The Habitat chapter will also have a substantial financial outlay, including raising additional requirements, donated services and materials, and preparing the selected family for first-time homeownership. Homeowners will be chosen from applicant families earning less than 80% of the area median income. In addition to a mortgage not greater than 30% of annual income, local Habitat homeowners pay an average of $3,283 in real estate taxes each year. “Penn College students have worked very effectively with Greater Lycoming Habitat for a number of years. They’ve done a lot of the concrete and other work on various build sites,” said Duane Hershberger, Robinson’s predecessor as executive director, according to the news release. This larger partnership is very gratifying, he added, giving students firsthand experience by applying their construction technology skills to the significant and growing national need for affordable housing. As an alumnus of Penn College, as well as having served as an adjunct faculty member, Andrew J. Hamelly has a unique understanding of those skills. Another alumnus of the college who has served as an adjunct faculty member, Andrew J. Hamelly, has been employed as Habitat’s construction supervisor for the past year. Hamelly brings to his position, experience as a self-employed contractor and three diplomas: two associate degrees — building construction technology in 2005 and building construction technology: masonry emphasis in 2007 — and a bachelor’s in residential construction technology and management: building construction technology concentration in 2007. “Everything having to do with the physical building of the house will fall on my shoulders,” Hamelly said, according to the news release. He will be responsible for seeing that Habitat’s mission of providing a “simple, decent, affordable home to live in” is met. This particular home is among 11 that the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International plans to complete by December 2027, adding to the 40 constructed in Lycoming County since 1990. Even before ground is broken along Fifth Avenue with a projected Spring 2026 completion, students have been involved. Last year, Geoffrey M. Campbell challenged his fifth-semester Architectural Design Studio IV class to focus on passive design – placing strong emphasis on the use of the sun to heat and light a building. Particular attention is devoted in the course to Passive House Institute U.S. standards for designing and building energy-efficient homes. Campbell and Associate Professor of Architecture Dorothy J. Gerring, who is also aiding the project, are PHIUS Certified Passive House Consultants. “After studying the Passive House approach at the start of the semester, the Fall 2022 students were given the challenge of designing a Passive House for the Fifth Avenue site that Penn College planned to donate to Habitat for Humanity,” explained Campbell, an assistant professor of architecture. A Passive House is typically oriented to the sun, with the majority of the windows facing south for solar access. The walls are typically much thicker than an average home, a foot or more depending on the climate, and are super-insulated with R-values — a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it — far beyond the minimum required by the local building code. “The idea is to gain a significant amount of heat from the sun in the winter, and to retain it throughout the day and into the night,” Campbell said, according to the news release “These types of homes have airtight construction, so that once you let the heat in, you hold on to it.” Older homes regularly lose their conditioned air through cracks in the walls and voids in the insulation, he said, requiring constant work by mechanical systems to replace it. “The efficiency of this approach can result in significant savings on energy expenses,” Campbell said. “The sun and the house itself do much of the work that, in the past, would have been done by the mechanical system. Buildings designed to the Passive House standard can save up to 80% or 90% on energy costs compared to a typical home.” Equipped with that foundational knowledge base, the group met with Hershberger, who helped define such aspects of the home as overall size and the number of bedrooms, then spent several weeks developing their solutions. Students created highly energy-efficient designs compatible with aesthetics of the neighborhood – designs that were reviewed by Hershberger, Lester and Hamelly. The jurors’ chosen project was the work of Sadie S.E. Niedermyer, who earned an associate degree in architecture last year and is working toward her bachelor’s in architecture and sustainable design. “One of the most difficult aspects of the project was making the design ‘net zero’ while maintaining the layout requirements and standards set by Habitat for Humanity,” said Niedermyer, of Spring Mills, according to the news release. “Essentially, not only does this house need to be extremely energy-efficient — producing as much energy as it uses — but it has to meet strict economic and size standards.” Niedermyer addressed this by creating a compact two-story residence. Little of the floorplan is dedicated strictly to circulation; instead, she chose an open floor plan to optimize the living space. Photovoltaic panels were used on the south-facing portion of the roof; the dwelling was strategically placed to take advantage of the solar gains, orientation and site. “Opportunities for additions and a future driveway were also considered in the design,” she noted. “It is not standard for Habitat for Humanity homes to have a garage or driveway, but I left additional open space on the site so that they could potentially be easily added.” Niedermyer’s vision for the home will likely be altered during the construction process, but Campbell said she did “an exceptional job” in aligning her project with PHIUS standards. “Her design is very compact in form, which is something you typically see with a Passive House,” he said. “A compact form results in a smaller surface area-to-volume ratio, which requires less air conditioning and which helps to minimize heat loss through the walls.” Niedermyer’s plans drew praise for efficiency in layout; no space is wasted, and her design is appropriate within the budgetary and material confines of a Habitat project. “Sadie’s solution is beautiful in its simplicity, but also highly advanced in its application of the Passive House principles,” Campbell said, according to the news release. “It will make a wonderful home for the future Habitat family.”