By Doug Lindner
SOLON– Everyone should have a simple, decent, affordable place to call home.
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity (IVHH) is going to help make it happen for a Solon family this year.
An affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry, the Iowa Valley chapter has selected the Kurt, Vicki and Chanse Shover family to become the first Habitat partner family for a home to be built in Solon during the summer of 2012.
Interest in a Solon Habitat home began in 2005 when local residents began fundraising efforts, including an annual Christmas tree decorating contest at the Solon Public Library.
“We have owned a lot on Dubuque Street for a couple of years and we have carried out a long search for a qualified family to partner with us,” said Mark Patton, Executive Director of Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity. “The Shovers have a demonstrated need due to a severe medical condition.”
“I knew very little about Habitat for Humanity,” Vicki Shover admitted. But she read in the Economist about a local family being sought, and eventually she and her husband Kurt decided to apply.
Vicki has been a resident of Solon since she was 12 years old, but she and her husband Kurt have lived in Solon since 1993. She suffers from an auto-immune disease and from neuropathy, which has severely limited her mobility. The couple and their son Chanse currently rent a three-level condominium. Because there are 14 steps up or down to the lower and upper levels, Vicki said she has been “kind of confined to the main level.” As a result, Kurt has had to help out a lot around the house while still holding down a full time job.
“If it were on one level, I could do laundry and do all those other things I haven’t been able to do,” Vicki said.
After delivering their application, the family didn’t hear anything for several months. “We just assumed they chose another family,” she said.
Then came a phone call and the news they had been selected for a new Habitat home.
“Of course, I cried,” Vicki said. “I kept asking, ‘Are you serious?’”
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity plans to construct a single-story, handicapped accessible and energy efficient home for the Shovers, beginning with a spring groundbreaking.
“We will sell the home to the Shovers at no profit and with a no-interest, 20 year loan,” said Patton.
Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity has built 72 homes in its 19-year history. The affiliate serves Cedar, Johnson and Iowa Counties.
Partnering families must earn between 25 percent-50 percent of area median income, have satisfactory credit, limited debts and a demonstrated need for improved housing. All families pay for their home over 20-25 years with mortgage proceeds being recycled to build more homes. In addition, family members must each provide 250 hours of “sweat equity” in the construction of Habitat homes, including their own.
The Shovers are already working on a downpayment of 50 hours of volunteer time. Kurt has been working on other Habitat builds and Vicki has been doing paperwork and helping staff the Habitat Resale Store on Scott Boulevard in Iowa City.
Planning for the Solon house started with a Dec. 1 meeting at the Solon United Methodist Church. Patton, the Shover family and interested community members gathered to discuss the creation of a local committee and efforts to raise $35,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.
Those local funds will be matched by a loan from the Housing Trust Fund of Johnson County.
According to Patton, a typical Habitat home costs about $125,000. Some of that cost (about $5,000) goes toward making the house as energy efficient and healthy as possible. Habitat utilizes 2x6 studs for framing the house and fills the walls with 5 1/2 inches of blown insulation.
“We build a very tight home with additional ventilation,” Patton explained. “We try to look at the health of the family and the cost of utilities. If a family has to pay an extra $100-200 in utilities, it increases their chance of failure.”
The Shover family will have a say in the appearance and layout. The partnering family has three-to-four floor plans to consider, as well as their choice in the color of siding, shingles and floor coverings. A garage and interior storm shelter are also part of the project.
“You would be hard-pressed to pick out our homes in Iowa City,” he observed.
Blueprints could be ready by February, with construction tentatively scheduled for June through September, Patton said at the planning session.
The local committee will meet again Sunday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. at the Solon United Methodist Church Family Life Center to set goals and create a plan to raise funds for the build.
Patton suggested a number of possible fundraising opportunities and encouraged youth involvement.
“We always ask the local community to pull together to help raise funds and raise the roof,” said Patton. “Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity is excited to build in Solon next summer.”
For more information about Iowa Valley Habitat for Humanity, go to www.iowavalleyhabitat.org  or call 319-337-8949.