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Brian Francisco | The Journal Gazette
Site work began Monday at Fuller’s Landing off West Cook Road. The Habitat for Humanity project is expected to see 118 single-family homes rise over the next five to seven years.

A model community

Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity leaders will break ground today on a new project as well as a new model for how they do business. Building an entire neighborhood will help ensure Habitat clients not only get an opportunity to own a quality home but also help build a safe and welcoming community.

Officials will hold a groundbreaking ceremony today for Fuller’s Landing, named in honor of Millard Fuller, founder of Habitat for Humanity International. It will be an entire neighborhood of Habitat-built homes in the 4300 block of West Cook Road. The ultimate goal of the three-phase program is to build 118 homes and a “unique, front-porch community.” The $10 million project will be built over the next five to seven years and includes a playground, streets and sidewalks as well as the homes.

The Fuller’s Landing homes will be new homes with a minimum of three bedrooms. Each will be 1,200 to 1,800 square feet. All of the homes will include a two-car garage and a front porch – designed to encourage interaction with neighbors.

The program is modeled on several Habitat for Humanity neighborhoods in Nashville. Officials estimate it will take more than 25,000 volunteers to complete the project.

“Shifting from building one home at a time to developing an entire front-porch neighborhood will enable Habitat families to live in an area that provides a safe, stable and united community we will all help build together,” said Justin Berger, Habitat for Humanity’s chief executive officer. “We are excited to bring this model of community-building that has been successful for Habitat affiliates around the country to families here in Fort Wayne.”

Habitat families get a no-interest mortgage and an affordable home with a commitment to pay back the loan. They must pass credit and background checks, make a $500 down payment, complete 10 classes on home ownership and nine classes on financial literacy. They also have to provide 300 hours of sweat equity by helping not only to build their own home but also helping with other homes. It usually takes about a year to complete all the requirements.

In its 27 years, Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity has built 167 homes for low-income families, with only seven foreclosures.

The strategy at Habitat has been to build homes in many locations scattered throughout the city on whatever land becomes available. The organization also has a program to rehabilitate existing homes for Habitat clients.

These programs can help bolster existing neighborhoods, but sometimes limit the choice of neighborhoods for Habitat clients.

In addition to the home ownership course requirements, restrictions on the Fuller’s Landing mortgages will prohibit the homes from becoming rental properties, ensuring owner-occupied homes and encouraging the pride in ownership that follows. As properties are sold, more young families will benefit from affordable, safe and attractive housing options, making the new Habitat strategy a winning one for years to come.