Affordable homes.

There is widespread consensus across Haywood and the region that affordable housing is a pressing need.

It is a topic that has long been discussed and one that has been on the radar of Haywood Habitat for Humanity for 32 years when the concept of a homeowner/volunteer partnership first came on the scene in the county.

Under the framework of a nationally recognized organization, Haywood Habitat began slowly, building homes, one by one, across the county.

Since progress depended on land, available funding and volunteers, going was slow, at least until the idea caught on. Since then, 50 homes have been built through Haywood Habitat since its humble beginnings in 1988 when the idea first took shape.

There were many turning points along the way, but a significant one happened this week when the current board, staff, contributors and volunteers celebrated the first Habitat “neighborhood” in Haywood, Walton Woods.

This is an eight-home neighborhood, complete with a paved street, playground, curbs and gutters where economies of scale could be realized when work was consolidated in a single area.

More than efficiencies, though, is the neighborhood feel that comes with having a community where people have gone through similar struggles finding safe and suitable housing and recognizing collectively the joy that can bring.

During the Walton Wood dedication this week, Jamye Sheppard, Haywood Habitat’s executive director, said now that the mold has been broken on how affordable housing is delivered, a new trend has been started.

The next project, also in Waynesville, is one where 10 homes will be built in Chestnut Park. One home is already finished, and another three are in various stages of construction. Each home is made possible by raising $60,000 and having an adequate number of volunteers to help complete it.

While this neighborhood completion is several years away, it is time to look for property where the next neighborhood can be build. Affordable housing is needed in every corner of Haywood. Individuals who may have 2-3 acres that might be suitable for a Habitat community are invited to contact the organization. Walton Woods is just 1 ½ acres, so even a small parcel of land can help make a significant difference when it comes to building an attractive, affordable housing community.

Volunteers, donors and leaders are invited to get involved. Check out the organization at https://haywoodhabitat.org/

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