In the 23 years since Fuller and his wife, Linda, launched Habitat, almost 100,000 such homes, built with donated material and volunteer labor, have been completed here and abroad. They are sold at cost through no-interest loans to recipients who themselves provide 500 hours of "sweat equity."
"I'd like to have competition from for-profit builders," said Fuller. "There's certainly enough poverty to go around."
In other areas of the country, Habitat builds new. In Philadelphia, with at least 28,000 units of abandoned housing on the city rolls, the majority of Habitat's work involves rehabbing salvageable buildings for people who want homes of their own.
The cost of rehabbing a house is about $40,000, which is the market value of a typical two-story single-family house in many low- and moderate-income city neighborhoods.
Bob Busser, president of Habitat's Germantown chapter, said the cost of rehabbing a similar house in Germantown using government funds is $129,000, almost three times as much. Habitat obtains abandoned or vacant housing from the city at no cost.
Sometimes, a business will put up the entire amount of the rehab costs and supply volunteers to help do the work as part of Habitat's "Adopt-A-House" program. Such is the case with 5314 Priscilla St., which has been adopted by Arbill Glove and Safety Products Corp. of Northeast Philadelphia.
The house is in an area of southwestern Germantown where the Habitat chapter has targeted 24 houses for rehabbing.
The first day of construction was June 19, with Arbill joining with regular Habitat volunteers in repairing walls and installing beams to reinforce the structure. It will take six to nine months to complete.
FOR MORE INFORMATION * For the location of the nearest Habitat chapter in the nine-county metropolitan area, call Habitat's Mid-Atlantic headquarters in West Chester at 610-692-6681.