- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — Gov. Mark Warner yesterday announced that the state is allocating $750,000 for Habitat for Humanity projects in Virginia, then joined about 50 state workers in hammering out a Habitat house.

“There still are too many low-income Virginians who don’t have access to homeownership,” the governor said.

Mercia Cherry, 25, no longer is one of them. She and her two children soon will live in the three-bedroom house on which Mr. Warner and state employees toiled.

“I’m just honored to have a Habitat house,” said Miss Cherry. “I’m grateful for this. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

She said she and her children now live in an apartment.

The house is among eight Habitat homes on the same block. The assessed value of the homes, including lots, range from $111,000 to about $117,000, said Kathy Garvin, executive director of Richmond Metro Habitat.

Virginia will funnel $250,000 in federal funds to the state’s Habitat for Humanity program each year for the next three years. The state estimates the $750,000 will help at least 100 families make down payments and closing costs on new Habitat homes.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development receives about $16 million in federal funds annually for statewide housing-development and homeownership initiatives.

Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built 150,000 homes in 89 countries, including 1,000 in Virginia. The first 1,000 Virginia homes were built over 16 years, but Habitat officials have begun a campaign to raise an additional 1,000 by the end of 2007.

Habitat clients join volunteers in helping to build their homes, then pay off the mortgages — usually through 20-year, no-interest loans secured by the charity.

Miss Cherry said she has put in about 200 hours of “sweat equity” on her home.

Those joining in the work yesterday included about half the employees of the Department of Housing and Community Development, all decked out in blue pullover shirts. The state employees took personal leave from their jobs to perform the work.

The foundation and flooring of the house have been completed. Miss Garvin said the rest of the house will be finished by the end of the week.

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