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Family walks away from Habitat home

The Habitat for Humanity house at 523 Union Street now sits empty. NATHAN BOWE/RECORD

Board members for the local Habitat for Humanity organization were taken by surprise recently when the occupants of a Habitat-built home at 523 Union Street walked away, leaving almost everything behind.

“This one was a shock, to say the least,” said Steve Hanson, president of Habitat for Humanity of the Detroit Lakes Area.

“The family just walked away from everything — it’s hard for us to grasp that.”

The family had never missed a house payment, always paid on time and always the correct amount, as required by escrow adjustments, he said.

The parents put in a combined 500 hours of work into the house as it was being built, as required, and met all other requirements of the program, he said.

Habitat families receive a zero-interest, 30-year home loan from the organization. They are allowed to the sell the house, pay off the mortgage and pocket any extra money if they so desire.

“They just decided to walk away,” Hanson said.

“In essence, I guess they rented it from Habitat for six years.”

Hanson found out after the fact that the family had gone separate ways: The father is living in Iowa, the mother in Frazee, and the grown daughters decided not to continue living at the house.

“They did what they were supposed to do, it just got to the point in time where their lives went different directions,” he said.

Habitat board members hauled furniture and other items out of the house and donated useable stuff to the Boys and Girls Club thrift store.

The rest was hauled away by Detroit Lakes Disposal Service.

Board members have been painting and otherwise fixing up the interior, and the house will likely be put for sale by the organization, with the proceeds going towards the next new Habitat house.

“We want to give Habitat families a new house,” he said, and part of the deal is that each adult put at least 250 hours of “sweat equity” into building it.

Habitat for Humanity of the Detroit Lakes Area has built nine homes, the most recent in Frazee over the winter, Hanson said.

The driveway, sidewalks and yard work will be finished on that property this spring, and then a dedication ceremony will be scheduled, he added.

After that, fund-raising will begin on the next project, which probably will not be built for a year or two.

Volunteers and donations are always welcome.

Hanson can be reached at 218-841-4938.