Habitat for Humanity works to complete home in Champaign neighborhood


The University chapter of Habitat for Humanity sets up wooden frames for a future home last Monday. They’ve nearly finished building and renovations in the Taylor Thomas Subdivision. The homes they build will go to people who otherwise couldn’t afford to buy their own home. 

By Angelica Lavito

A Champaign County family will soon have a new home thanks to the Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County. Volunteers are working to construct the final home in Champaign’s Taylor Thomas Subdivision. 

The single-family home is Habitat for Humanity’s fifth home in the two-block affordable housing neighborhood, said Sheila Dodd, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County.

“The city had been trying to market homes for several years and were having difficulties for a variety of reasons,” Dodd said. “They reached out to Habitat to see if we would be able to build it following their subdivision guidelines, and so that’s what we’re doing.”

Volunteers will help build a majority of the house, but professionals are hired by Habitat to complete projects such as electrical and plumbing work. With winter around the corner, Dodd said volunteers are working to complete as much of the project as they can. 

Over the next few weeks the University chapter of Habitat for Humanity will help make the house watertight in preparation for winter, said Alex Dowd, president of Habitat for Humanity’s UIUC Chapter. 

Dodd said the University chapter is a “huge help” to Habitat for Humanity of Champaign County.

“I think a lot of people have the mindset of campus where campus is self-sufficient and we’re in a bubble,” Dowd said. “You get out in the community and it’s completely different. There are a lot of tough areas in Champaign, and it’s nice to get awareness.”

A family is lined up to purchase the home. Habitat for Humanity works with the families chosen to occupy the homes they build to ensure they can manage homeownership. Families are selected based on their ability to pay a mortgage, willingness to partner with Humanity and need.

“Once the house is completed, we sell it to the partner family, and they make a mortgage payment just like you and I do,” Dodd said.

The completion of this home will mark the completion of the Taylor Thomas Subdivision that has undergone change since 1998. Susan Jones, a Champaign community development specialist, said a restoration project began around 2000 to redevelop the area, which was formerly home to Mansard Square Apartments. 

“Things went pretty quickly until about 2006 or 2007, when the economy started slowing down,” Jones said. “The city took over. The developer wanted out. So the city took back the project and built the last three houses. The last one, we had a hard time finding someone to build there because it was hard to find people who qualified financially.”

For Jones, watching Habitat for Humanity complete the final home in the subdivision shows a remarkable transition of a formerly run down area. She said it also provides families who would not be able to purchase a home on their own the opportunity to do that.

“You see a transition for people who think they have nowhere to go,” Jones said. “You’re giving them a way to achieve something they didn’t think they could achieve.”

Angelica can be reached at [email protected]