published Sunday, December 9th, 2012

Family gets house for holidays in Chattanooga

The Rev. Peter Kanyi takes a photo of Natalie, Pius, Joyce, Tegra, Benedict and Gloire Mutubwa at their new Habitat for Humanity home Saturday. The family, originally from the Republic of Congo, has lived in public housing and rental apartments for the past three years.
The Rev. Peter Kanyi takes a photo of Natalie, Pius, Joyce, Tegra, Benedict and Gloire Mutubwa at their new Habitat for Humanity home Saturday. The family, originally from the Republic of Congo, has lived in public housing and rental apartments for the past three years.
Photo by Allison Love.

IF YOU GO

What: Habitat for Humanity launches its 25X12 campaign

When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: The Well, 1800 Rossville Blvd., Suite 8

Pius Mutubwa lived through years of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where a soldier's knock on the door could end in an entire family being annihilated, he said.

But he and his family survived. On Saturday, the former African refugee became a Chattanooga homeowner.

"I'm feeling very, very good, very excited," said Mutubwa.

The Mutubwas are the 238th family in Chattanooga to get a Habitat home.

Habitat's goal is to provide homes for 12 more families in the coming year, Executive Director Donna Williams said.

The organization will launch a 25X12 campaign on Wednesday, where it hopes to get 1,000 people to donate $25 a month for the next year. The Maclellan Foundation is providing a grant that will match each donation dollar for dollar, said Williams.

"We want to encourage more Chattanoogans to get involved in solving the crisis of affordable housing. There is a big lack," said Williams. "A donation as small as $25 can make a difference."

Nearly 2,000 people are waiting for public housing with the Chattanooga Housing Authority, while 5,000 more are on the waiting list for Section 8. More than 25 percent of renters in the city's urban core pay more than half their income for housing, and nearly half of homeowners live in unaffordable housing.

The money from the 25X12 campaign will be used to supplement the cost of building or renovating 12 homes next year, said Williams.

That allows Habitat to sell the homes to residents like Mutubwa for 75 percent of the home's value, so the homeowner has some equity going into the home, she said.

Building a home costs about $95,000 to $105,000, including some donated labor and materials.

Some people say they can build a home for less, but Habitat officials focus on providing families with affordable homes that are also of good quality, said Williams.

Stella Jones, a single mother of three, still recalls around Christmas time in 2008 when she walked into her new Habitat home. She had almost no furniture, but she was so excited that she went to the Dollar Store and bought a CD player so she could play her Temptations Christmas songs.

She said she saved money because the mortgage on her three-bedrooom house is less than the rent had been on her two-bedroom apartment, and she has more space.

It was Trina DeSouza, Chattanooga Housing Authority's manager of College Hill Courts, who suggested the Mutubwa family try for a Habitat home and filled out the paperwork for them to get it.

About 350 sweat-equity hours later, the Mutubwa family, including Mutubwa's wife and four children, will be in their new home before Christmas.

Mutubwa's wife is expecting their fifth child in January.

about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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