Helena Area Habitat for Humanity

Helena Area Habitat is an affiliate I’ve been following with interest for some time due to their aggressive efforts in creating affordable housing despite home costs having more than doubled in less than 10 years. With the average house in Helena costing $465,000, it is no secret that middle-class workers and their families are priced out of the market.

Though the city and the neighboring town of East Helena have a population of less than 35,000 the affiliate is currently constructing a dozen and a half homes each year as well as assisting current homeowners with critical repairs, and they are on track to be tackling 30 homes per year by 2030 – an output that puts this small city on par with Habitat affiliates in metropolitan areas more than 10 times their size. They have also recently made a huge land purchase and are planning on starting a development from scratch – one that they plan to build 700 homes in over the next 15 years.

During our time there we worked on finishing up the framing of an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) and carport located on an existing lot which had been donated to the affiliate along with a house. This two story unit will provide an ideal space for a younger couple or a small family. Most of our days we worked alone with Construction Superintendent Craig and Supervisor Chris, the four of us tackling outlookers, subfascia, and rat runs on the carport before decking the roofs of both the ADU and the carport. Uncharacteristically, I did a lot more of the ground support rather than being up decking the roof which allowed me to sneak a few shots of Tom and Craig in action but when I was up high doing outlookers and subfascia I wasn’t taking photos for obvious reasons anyway.

After we’d gotten the roofs sheathed we completed a number of final punch list items so the structures would be ready for their framing inspections; these tasks included checking the nail patterns on all the walls, adding blocking, and putting in drywall nailers. That last job involved me crawling through the truss webbing next to the eaves, a task that involved just about every bit of flexibility I could muster since I could barely fit in some of the spaces even without a tool belt on. Finally, our last afternoon we headed out to prepare a few foundations that had just been poured as well as start sill plates for those houses.