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'It's An Amazing Feeling': Habitat For Humanity House Goes Up In A Fort Worth Parking Lot

A half-built house on stilts stands in a parking lot. A bunch of ladders lean up against it. A man wearing a hard hat and holding a piece of wood goes down one of the ladders.
Miranda Suarez
/
KERA News
The Rodarte family home goes up in a parking lot at Alcon's Fort Worth campus. It will be moved to the Hillside Morningside neighborhood.

The pandemic slowed down Trinity Habitat for Humanity's building schedule last year, but now that the weather is cooling down, building is ramping back up.

Victoria Rodarte’s future home stood half-built in a Fort Worth parking lot on Thursday.

Volunteers at Alcon, an eye care company with a campus in Fort Worth, are building the three-bedroom house on company property. Later, it will be moved to the Hillside Morningside neighborhood, where Trinity Habitat for Humanity has built and rehabbed dozens of other homes.

Rodarte and her 15-year-old son Clint were at the work site on Thursday. She applied to Trinity Habitat for a home in 2019. And now, she could see it coming together.

“It's an amazing feeling, just having strangers come together to help me build a home for me and my children,” she said.

To qualify for the program, a family has to be under 80% of the area’s average income. They also have to put in 200 hours of “sweat equity,” which includes homeownership education classes and construction work on other houses. Families must pay towards taxes and insurance on the home, but no down payment is required.

The goal is to give people the chance to own a home with an affordable monthly mortgage, usually $800 to $1,100, according to Trinity Habitat CEO Gage Yager.

“Affordable homeownership is sort of an oxymoron. It’s very hard to pull off,” he said.

It’s getting harder in Fort Worth. The median price of a home in the city has been rising for months, hitting $306,000 in August, according to the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors. That’s almost $60,000 higher than the same time last year.

Demand is high, supply is low, and, as the Realtors put it, “The grim reality is that it’s still very challenging to find a home.”

Rodarte said she might have been able to afford a home without Habitat, but it wouldn’t have been easy.

“Probably check to check, if even I cut it,” she said. “It’s really hard, especially with the economy now.”

The pandemic hit Trinity Habitat hard last year. The organization says it lost more than $600,000 in corporate funding, and had to cut 10 home builds from its schedule.

Volunteer numbers plummeted, too, Yager said. Building materials cost hundreds of thousands dollars more than they used to. And even now, shortages persist.

“You can’t find plywood or something for a while, and it’s super duper expensive, and now, you can’t find brick,” Yager said.

Construction on the Rodarte family home will continue on Friday. Then, it will be moved to the Hillside Morningside, neighborhood, not far from where she currently lives with her mother.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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