Habitat for Humanity breaks ground on first-ever house in Spring Grove

Jordan Gerard

Friday, May 17 (Syttende Mai) was the start of Syttende Mai festivities in Spring Grove, but for one family, it was the best day when ground was broken for their new home.

Sherry Pitts and her kids will have a new home to live in by this fall. 

Habitat for Humanity – La Crosse Area hosted a ground-breaking ceremony for their first-ever house build in Spring Grove.

Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity – La Crosse Area Kahya Fox said there’s a community behind this house to help finish it.

“We’re so grateful and it’s truly amazing to work with you,” she said at the ceremony. “This house will provide wealth and equity, safety and security. It’s a dream come true for the family.”

Councilmember Travis Torgerson thanked donors and Habitat for Humanity for the support.

“We’re excited this is our first Habitat Home in Spring Grove,” he said. “Housing is important to us because we’re building a community and this house is an excellent demonstration of that.”

This house is special for several reasons. It’s been decades since Habitat for Humanity built a house across the river and with a want to expand to Houston County (where the La Crosse chapter serves), they found a need.

The need for affordable housing in Spring Grove was recognized by high school students about a year and a half ago, who in a conversation with their peers and teachers said they wanted more housing for the future of Spring Grove.

The school got together with the Spring Grove Economic Development Authority (EDA) and Community and Economic Business Development Associates (CEDA) Courtney Bergey to write a grant to the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation (SMIF).

The grant they received was for a Makerspace class, which gave students the chance to learn hands on skills such as robotics, knitting, small engines, making fishing rods, woodworking and more.

They also started designing a home with local architect Miranda Moen, who has a passion for architecture and Norwegian spaces.

Moen helped the students decided on a design and showed them how make use of every space in a home.

The home makes use of small spaces, energy efficiency and space saving ideas. It clearly reflects the Norwegian architecture, which is what Moen is interested in as a future architect.

“This is why I love cultural architecture – because our ancestors have made these ‘tried and true’ architectural systems that seem to integrate structure and character so well,” Moen said previously. “It’s my goal to bring this pride back into our small town buildings, one step at a time.”

Then the school got connected with Habitat and finally, the house plan came to fruition after Habitat’s architects checked everything over and made adjustments where needed. 

“As soon as I saw the final plans the students had done, I wanted to move in right away,” Superintendent Rachel Udstuen said. 

After Udstuen, Fox, Torgerson and senior Corbin Moser (as a representative for the students) broke the ground, construction crews can come in and start building. 

Fox added that a lot of progress would be seen by mid-June. Volunteers and the family can start helping with the build. 

About 175 volunteers and 2,000 volunteer hours will help build the house. The family must contribute 350 hours of sweat equity.

“There’s so much support behind this and that’s the beautiful thing about Spring Grove,” Fox said. “Tons of people are helping on this project, from donating building supplies to materials to food.”

No experience is needed to volunteer. Construction skills are taught as the home-building process moves on. Construction days are Wednesday through Saturday.

Habitat provides two full-time construction staff members who oversee the building process. 

The organization works with families to structure a monthly payment package to make sure they can pay the payments.

Fox said the structure of the payment plans have an “extremely high success rate,” and there have been “no closures ever.”

The family is able to sell the home if they want to, such as if they had to move for a job change. They also earn equity during their time as homeowners. 

For the first 10 years, they earn 10 percent of the equity and then in another 10 years, earn another 10 percent. Eventually the family comes to have 100 percent equity in the home.

To help donate or volunteer, contact Fox at Kahya Fox exdirector@habitatlacrosse.org.

Stay tuned for more information about the home’s progress. We’ll have a feature story about Sherry Pitts and her family in next week’s edition.