New Habitat for Humanity project

BY HOLLY KESTENIS, Staff Writer

St. Petersburg – There’s a new program in the community that is sure to raise interest to homeowners, especially those residing in the midtown area. Habitat for Humanity is embarking on a journey that will take them in a new direction and help beautify the neighborhood as well.

Antwaun Wells

Antwaun Wells

If you know Antwaun Wells you know he is always on the go to make a difference in the community. From tutoring area children, to cutting hair and mentoring while he does it, to working in his family’s construction business, Wells is constantly on the move, spending most of the 24 hours in the day working toward the betterment of businesses and individuals he comes in contact with daily.

“If you don’t do anything for somebody else then you’re just good for nothing,” he said. And Wells doesn’t want to be known for doing nothing. So it should come as no surprise that he was given the honor of being the first Midtown-Mercy Neighborhood Preservation Home Services Supervisor otherwise known as NPP. An impressive title for an impressive new program.

So what is this new program and whom does it help?

“This is a pilot program that we’ve started just for this area here,” said Wells. It will allow residents an opportunity to complete high cost repairs on their home, and Wells is excited about the opportunity this has created for local residents to get a helping hand in an area that has been overlooked for years.

If you live in the 22nd Street South Corridor you’re in luck. Homes from Ninth Avenue South to 26th Avenue South and cross-sectioned with 19th Street South, on through to 25th Street South to be more specific. It’s a partnership with the City of St. Petersburg and Habitat for Humanity to help compliment current initiatives in the area set forth to strengthen midtown economically.

Habitat, featuredWells has been doing a lot of legwork to get the word out to homeowners. “I’m taking brochures from door to door, going to churches, schools and homeowner associations,” he said.

Repair work offered includes the main problem areas that many homes in Pinellas County find in need of repair.  Critical home repairs such as roof replacement and structural repairs will be done. Plumbing services are also offered to include hot water heaters, faucets and toilet repairs. Electrical upgrades can also be completed, which is a plus as an array of homes have outdated and potentially dangerous wiring.

Updates to help your home run better such as energy efficient repairs are also available. This would include replacing or adding insulation and central heat and air. Curb appeal is also an issue the city would like to tackle in order to help create more of a seamless city, so exterior enhancements such as painting, siding repair and landscaping are also offered through NPP.

In addition, modifications such as wheelchair ramps or accessibility upgrades are offered. So if you know of a loved one living in the area with mobility limitations, this program may well be what they’ve been waiting for.

To qualify there are certain requirements that need to be met. First Habitat for Humanity will look at your income. For example, a family of two cannot have a gross income of over $36, 750, while a family of four can make up to $45, 900 and still qualify. From there a home visit will determine what repairs they can adequately handle and documentation will be requested to verify you own your house. If your application is approved, then work begins on your new and improved home.

Because Habitat for Humanity’s programs use “sweat equity” as a way of repayment, those who qualify are expected to work anywhere from 10-25 hours based on what type of work is being completed. If you have physical limitations, don’t worry; the sweat equity work will be tailored to suit your physical abilities.

In addition, a repayment plan will be set up. Labor through the NPP program is free of charge and homeowners are only asked to repay the cost of materials, which is significantly lower. Wells doesn’t want potential applicants to worry about the financial aspect. The loan is at zero percent interest, yes, zero percent interest and can be paid back over a 30 year period.

“And after 10 years, 50 percent is forgiven,” Wells said, which makes the NPP program the best loan ever and “a very good deal.”

The NPP is also looking for volunteers to get on board with some of the repairs. Although some work is expected to be contracted out, volunteers have always been the mainstay and a prominent force behind Habitat for Humanity’s success, and this program is no different.

“I have the time, I have the ability, I have the talent,” said Wells. “I like to utilize it and be the best I can be.” Wells hopes his philosophy on life will inspire others to commit to making the NPP a success.

Not sure if you have the skills? Don’t worry Wells has that covered too.

“Oh, I’ll find something for them,” he said. That is, after all why he was hired to oversee the program. His skills in pinpointing what someone is capable of are what make him such a positive force in the mentoring community. Just by talking with volunteers, Wells is able to find a place where they will fit. “There are many things that people can do.”

I’m involved in the whole process,” he said. From getting program information out to the community, to getting the applications filled out, to seeing applications through the city approval process, Wells is your man. “From front to back.”

Still early on in the development stage, the program is set to run for the next four years, but applications are currently being accepted. If you live in the 22nd Street South Corridor and your house could use a little TLC, don’t wait, get an application and apply now.

You can pick up an application at Habitat for Humanity’s new satellite office, which is located at 855 Ninth Ave. S, or download an application online at www.habitatpinellas.org. Wells can be reached by phone at (727) 366-8115, or you can email him at awells@HabitatPinellas.org.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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