Habitat for Humanity has a vision it describes as "a world where everyone has a decent place to live." And if you ask Tom Gipson, no one is better prepared to make that dream a reality than builders. Gipson, owner of Tom Gipson Homes in Raleigh, N.C., is the brains behind Habitat for Humanity’s Home Builders Blitz. The idea came to him as a result of his own volunteer service with Habitat, where he experienced how frustratingly slow it can be when non-builders try to piece together a house. If builders got involved, Gipson reasoned, homes would get off the ground faster and more people could have a better place to live in less time.
What started out as a local effort, when Gipson recruited 12 builders to help make 12 houses in five days, has turned into a national tour de force. To date, 758 homes have been built using the Builder Blitz model. In 2012, the goal is to bring that number to more than 1,000, by building 250 homes in five days (June 4-8), as well as rehabilitating and repairing existing homes.
While most of the exact locations for the Blitz haven’t been nailed down yet, builders who want to get involved don’t need to get too hung up on that, Gipson says. "There are two ways this can happen. The [Habitat] affiliate can try to get the builders, or the builders can go to the affiliate," he says.
Gipson is currently making the rounds to local Habitat chapters and HBAs across the country to get people interested and stir up volunteers; but for builders who want to help, Gipson says the best thing to do is go into your local Habitat affiliate and tell them your company is up to the challenge.
The trick is being able to build a quality house on the cheap. "What we expect builders to do is try to get the home built for nothing. If you can’t do this, Habitat will reimburse you for the cost. But if that comes in at $50,000, it isn’t going to work," Gipson says. If costs absolutely must be incurred, they should be less than $10,000, he says.
However, volunteers don’t have to do everything on their own. Habitat provides the land, develops the site, and takes care of permits. Habitat also provides the framing package for free. What builders sign up for is simply doing what they do best: building the house.
So how do you come up with a whole house for next to nothing? You get all hands on deck. Typically, Gipson says, a builder will approach its subs about joining in the effort. Subs will then go to their material suppliers to ask them to pitch in. That way, the donation amount is within reach for everyone involved.
And while some people might think the industry’s financial straits make it a bad time to be asking for help from builders, Gipson isn’t deterred. "When we did the first Blitz in 2006, people said it was a bad time then, because people were too busy. It’s a bad time for builders to give a huge financial gift, but he does have the time available and his subs have the time available. There are always going to be reasons why it’s not a good time to give and why it is a good time to give."
Claire Easley is a senior editor at Builder.