Bright and early next Monday morning, hundreds of builders across the country will start work on nearly 200 homes. By Friday evening, they’ll be ready to hand over the keys. The turbocharged schedule is part of Habitat for Humanity’s 2012 Builders Blitz, scheduled to begin nationally June 4th, though some affiliates will have different start dates. Altogether, some 200 new houses will be completed.
While a typical Habitat home averages about three months to complete, the Builders Blitz offers a great opportunity to showcase builders’ efficiency, says Tom Gipson, owner of Raleigh, N.C.-based Thomas Gipson Homes and the engine behind the Builders Blitz program. "This is not the typical Habitat model," he said in an interview with Builder last week. "The typical model is having a church or company sponsor a project and volunteers come and spend months building a house. For me as a builder, that’s a frustrating experience when you have thirty people putting down a floor and it takes them all day, when a builder can do it in an hour."
Now in its sixth year, the Builders Blitz program has completed nearly 900 homes—all finished in a one-week timeframe, which Gipson says hits the right balance between feasibility and builders’ other obligations. "If it took a month, a lot of builders couldn’t do it," Gipson said. "But anybody can take a week."
This year, participating builders will be spread across 25 states. In addition to the 200 new homes planned, builders will assist in rehabbing old homes in need of repair.
The program has received such a tremendous response from the building community that builder volunteers could have planned to build even more homes next week if Habitat affiliates had been able to provide more lots, Gipson says. For Blitz builds, local Habitat chapters provide each home’s lot and completed foundation, many of which are in pricier infill locations, which can restrict the number of sites affiliates are able to provide. Builders, in turn, offer their skills and are encouraged to include their subcontractors and suppliers. "If they all do their share, a builder can make a $75,000 contribution to affordable housing in a week," Gipson said. "It’s an incredible opportunity."
Since the program was launched in 2006, Gipson has consistently been amazed at the response it has received from builders, many of who have donated their time and efforts even as they’ve struggled to keep their own companies afloat. "The industry is devastated," he said. "Builders aren’t making money. It’s absolutely incredible that we could get 200 homes built, many of them for nothing. It just speaks so well of the home building industry and the kind of people involved in it."
Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.