'Making new memories': Red Wing family looks forward to new Habitat for Humanity home

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For Stevanna Steiner and her five children, the prospect of owning a home offers exciting opportunities such as gardening, welcoming a new pet to the family and investing in a house rather than paying rent each month.

After about 2,600 hours of work over eight months, volunteer crews with Goodhue County Habitat for Humanity reached the final weeks of construction on the Steiners' home, marking the organization's 23rd home built in Red Wing.

"I want to get in here and start making new memories," Steiner said at the dedication event Saturday. "We are happy and blessed."

Steiner approached Habitat after volunteering with the construction of her friend's home through her job at Capital Safety. Her previous work with the organization made the process all the more satisfying.

"You only do one or two days on the other sites when you volunteer," she said. "We've seen the whole thing from the drafts to this, so it's much more rewarding to build your own home."

To provide homes to families who might not be able to afford one otherwise, Habitat builds homes and sells them to the family at appraisal value, which is often less that the construction costs. Families purchase the homes with an interest-free mortgage and no down payment.

"For people with low incomes, it's a big leap to think about home ownership. That's foreign thinking," said John Parkes, construction coordinator with Goodhue County Habitat. "You can rent an apartment for 15 years and struggle to make your rent payments, so owning a home just seems far-fetched. But the truth is, in Stevanna's case, her income ratio for housing is going to go way down. She'll pay less for this house than she's paying for rent."

The benefits Habitat houses provide the homeowners extend beyond finances. A homeowner impact study published last year found that Habitat houses afforded families a more stable home environment, which contributed to improved feelings of safety, better academic participation among children and an increased connection to the community.

More than 200 volunteers helped build the Steiners' new home. Parkes said some of the "prime movers" for the project have been Xcel Energy crews, who worked at the site about 12 times throughout construction.

Nic Abney, a senior instructor for operations training with Xcel, said he appreciated the opportunity for "fellowship and camaraderie" among his colleagues.

"It's very important for me personally to help the community, but for Xcel it's great to give back to the community that we get so much from," he said. "It feels great to have been able to come here since May and see such a change in the neighborhood. When we came here it was just dirt, now there's a wonderful house here."