Habitat group plans multi-home push in Evansville

WLFI File Photo
WLFI File Photo

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) — Habitat for Humanity of Evansville has set its sights on a multi-home building effort in the city’s Jacobsville neighborhood, on property donated by Deaconess.

Representatives from both groups announced the news Wednesday in a gathering on Garfield Street, which is where the homes are to be built.

In all, Deaconess is donating 17 separate parcels of land on Garfield, just north of Virginia Street and about two blocks from the hospital’s main campus. Habitat plans to build six or seven homes on the donated land, which now consists of vacant lots adjacent to existing homes, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Habitat is a nonprofit organization that builds affordable housing in partnership with families, who purchase the homes and put in hundreds of volunteer hours, known as “sweat equity,” as part of the deal.

Steve Smith, Habitat’s interim director, said Jacobsville is “a tremendous neighborhood for our families” and “kind of a hidden gem in the city of Evansville” because it’s within walking distance of jobs, medical care and retail. Major Jacobsville employers include both Deaconess and Berry Plastics. Garfield is also a few blocks from North Main Street, which is home to numerous restaurants, a grocery store and small businesses.

Habitat has built individual houses in Jacobsville before, Smith said, but this will be the group’s first time building multiple neighboring homes. Habitat prefers this approach, he said, because it helps keep down building costs and builds synergy between homeowners.

Smith said Habitat hopes to start construction next spring and have all the homes completed by the end of 2015.

Linda White, Deaconess’ Chief Executive Officer, said the hospital acquired the parcels over time as they became available. Deaconess never intended to use the land for hospital projects, she said, but instead made the purchases intending to use the land for community development later on.

The hospital decided that donating the land to Habitat would be a good move toward that goal, White said.

“We’re very, very proud to be able to be part of this neighborhood.”

Joe Easley, president of the Jacobsville Area Community Corp., said the new Habitat homes will be a welcome addition, especially because so much of the neighborhood’s existing homes are old and dilapidated.

“I think it’s really an important step. New housing in this area is really a positive.”

Easley does not live in Jacobsville, but he got involved with the neighborhood during his time as pastor of Central United Methodist Church, which is located in Jacobsville. Easley retired from the church in 2012 but he remains active in the Jacobsville organization, which promotes redevelopment in the neighborhood.

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