Habitat house battles delays amid COVID-19 pandemic

One home for one family each year – that is the mission of the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity. 

It’s one small part of the battle against poverty in the region, according to Executive Director Thomas Szulanczyk, who added that 51% of Williamsport’s population live below the poverty line. 

“Every person deserves a decent place to live,” Szulanczyk said. 

Szulanczyk joined the Lycoming County habitat in April after years of service with the Red Cross in Lewisburg. The issue of poverty and the housing needs have been steady over the years, however, this year, needs have increased, he said. 

Habitat set out to build this year’s home at 702 Diamond Street in January, but the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a challenge they were not prepared for. 

The homes are built through volunteer help, discounts on materials and commitment from the homes soon-to-be new owners. 

Each year a family is selected to live in the house that is built and Szulancyk said the family is expected to put “sweat equity” into the build of their new home. They are required to contribute a certain amount of hours as well as devote time to finance education classes to help them prepare for taking on and finishing a 30-year mortgage.

Due to COVID-19, the current home is behind schedule, however, it still is expected to be finished by the end of the year. Strains on the economy meant increases in material prices, and development Szulanczyk doesn’t expect to decrease anytime soon. 

In addition, the majority of the nonprofit’s volunteers tend to be older and so many were unable to come to the job sight due to health concerns. While numbers have begun to pick back up, he added that the group is always in need of more volunteers. 

Szulanczyk expects next year’s house to be just as difficult as this year, however, he hopes they will be able to find more volunteers. 

“If we can move one family out of poverty into home ownership each year, then I think we can be successful,” he said. 

Author

  • Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.

Anne Reiner

Anne Reiner has been a journalist for over eight years. She lives in Lycoming County and founded On the PULSE to create a new and engaging way to bring local news to the region of Northcentral, Pennsylvania.