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Habitat for Humanity still working in Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood

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SNOQUALMIE - For years Lisa Curtis resolved she'd never own a house.

Curtis, her partner Mike Crandall and their two children lived in an apartment building in Snoqualmie's Meadowbrook neighborhood and the cost of living, coupled with the prices of homes, made the prospect of ownership seem too far away to consider.

"We thought we could maybe afford a townhouse in the future," she said.

All of that changed last Saturday. Curtis' family was one of two Valley families that got a house in Snoqualmie by working with Habitat for Humanity of East King County. That chapter is part of Habitat for Humanity International, a Georgia-based organization that helps families own homes at the lowest possible price thanks to zero-interest mortgages, volunteer work and sponsorship. Each family must meet an income requirement to get a home and put in at least 500 hours of "sweat equity" before they move in.

The houses were built in the same neighborhood off Snoqualmie Parkway that went up in a flurry of activity in the summer of 2001. Known as the "Blitz Build," Habitat for Humanity of East King County built more homes (22) at one time than at any other build in the Northwest. Since those homes were completed, a few more have been built and a community center went up earlier this year. The two homes dedicated last week will be homes No. 25 and 26.

Mia Walterson, associate executive director for Habitat for Humanity of East King County, said Habitat is working on getting three more houses built in the Snoqualmie neighborhood (called Koinonia Ridge) in the near future. While there is room for 50 houses in the neighborhood, she said the rest of the houses will most likely go in a few at a time.

"There was a learning curve [to the Blitz Build]," she said.

Like all Habitat builds, the most recent one relied on sponsorship and volunteers. B. J. Rasmussen, branch director of the RBC Dane Raucher office in Bellevue, helped lead his company's effort to assist with building the Curtis house. RBC Dane Raucher has helped build other Habitat houses and even allows employees time off to volunteer at builds. Rasmussen was also able to elicit help from Rotary District 5030, a regional group of area Rotary clubs. Also, Rasmussen's wife Lyndsey is a doctor who runs Snoqualmie Ridge Family Medicine and the two thought the investment in their community would be a good one.

"It was a perfect blend of a nonprofit, a civic organization and a for-profit company coming together," he said.

While Rasmussen came on board with the help of his company and Rotary club, he said one person can bring a lot to a Habitat build. He said you don't have to belong to a sponsoring company to help, and that he has seen many people make small, personal investments that aid the builds. He knew of one man who volunteers every year on his birthday.

"Call Habitat, go out and swing a hammer," he said.

Walterson said the need for affordable housing becomes more pronounced every year in King County. With the median home price now hovering close to $400,000, she said there is no way most families will ever be able to afford a house. To qualify for a Habitat house, the annual income for a family must be 50 percent of the median income for King County. For a family of four, that 50-percent total is $38,500.

"It can get discouraging, but we are helping who we can," Walterson said. "We are helping two families that couldn't have had a home before."

Curtis said she can attest to to that. Her family will now have some space, going from their 700-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment to their new 1,100-square-foot, two-floor, three-bedroom home. Her children, Bailey, 8, and Nick, 5, will now have a yard to play in. Curtis and her husband have fond memories of growing up on Vashon Island and she said that her new home reminds them of that community.

"It's really nice," Curtis said.

* For more information on Habitat for Humanity of East King County, call (425) 869-6007 or visit www.habitatekc.org.

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