Families become homeowners in East Helena thanks to Habitat for Humanity

Posted at 5:08 PM, Nov 03, 2023

HELENA — Becoming a homeowner is a dream of many families. On Thursday evening, four families were given that opportunity after participating in Habitat for Humanity’s sweat equity program, helping to build not only their own home but their neighbor’s homes, as well.

“And so, I’ve done a lot of moving through my life and just to know that I now have roots, I have a house, it’s the world to me,” says new homeowner, Mary Nielsen.

Four families were given the keys to their homes Thursday after working hard to help build them. The sweat equity program ensures that the homebuyers put in the time and effort to build their homes from the ground up. Once this is completed, the homes are essentially sold to them at cost, while also ensuring that they won’t pay more than 30% of their income towards a mortgage.

Nielsen says that building not only her and her husband’s own home but those of her neighbors was a great way of creating community from the ground up.

“...because we all bonded with each other, we all get along with each other. So, it’s like we built our own little community here and I treated everybody’s home as if it was mine,” says Nielsen.

Jacob Kuntz, Executive Director with Helena Area Habitat for Humanity, organized the key ceremony. Kuntz says that creating affordable housing is necessary in Montana as buying and renting has become increasingly difficult over the past few years. He says that creating affordable housing benefits not only the families but the entire community.

“When people can’t afford where they live, it affects their quality of life. It affects their health. It affects the educational attainment of their children. It affects security of neighborhoods. As people are more dissettled, it creates more stress within communities, it puts pressure on businesses who can't, you know, find workers. It actually trickles down to every segment of society and every challenge that a society faces. So, the work of investing in affordable homes pays dividends across time. We’re turning renters into homeowners. They’re taxpayers. They’re stabilized. These are forever homes,” says Kuntz.

In addition to these 4 homes, Habitat for Humanity is also in the process of creating at least 1,000 new homes in East Helena, as well.