Neighbors fault Habitat for Humanity homes

Posted: Monday, October 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A report critical of Habitat for Humanity practices in Anchorage, including complaints that the houses built are of unattractive design, has been distributed to about 30 Habitat donors.

The report follows complaints by leaders in the Mountain View neighborhood who say the house are so plain, they're pulling down the neighborhood.

''They look like 1950s tract homes,'' said Niki Burrows, Mountain View Community Council treasurer. ''And they're all alike, like a cookie cutter.''

The council produced the report that compares practices of the Anchorage office with ''best practices'' at nine other Habitat for Humanity chapters across the country. University of Alaska Anchorage finance instructor Carol Howarth, who grew up in Mountain View, prepared it as a community service project.

Howarth concluded that some Habitat chapters used more attractive designs, involved local communities more in planning, completed landscaping before homeowners moved in and spent more time training new owners on maintenance and neighborhood expectations.

In Anchorage, Howarth said, ''Mountain View feels like every request they've made has been discounted.''

The criticism is troubling, said Habitat-Anchorage President Jeri Bidinger. She has been attending community council meetings for several months and says most people seem to support Habitat projects.

As for detractors, ''We've worked very hard with them to try to resolve some of those complaints.''

Habitat this summer changed its house designs to make them more appealing and planted lawns this summer for the houses completed in 2001, Bidinger said.

Habitat for Humanity's mission is to build basic, low-cost houses for as many people as it can worldwide. In Anchorage, Habitat serves people who make a quarter to half of the median wage. Home buyers pay a mortgage to cover the cost of materials and land. The payments here are $500 to $600, Bidinger said.

Mountain View leaders say their dispute with Habitat goes beyond aesthetics. They are concerned about the lack of garages or carports and arctic entryways. Council leaders worry that Habitat plans to build multifamily houses in the future and say Habitat needs to better train its house buyers on home upkeep.

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