Since Anayo Offia and Chinyere Okafor moved to the U.S. from Nigeria five years ago, they have wanted a place to call home.
The couple and their two sons, Chisimdi, 5, and Kosarachi, 2, live in a cramped two-bedroom apartment in Raleigh. They spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent in a neighborhood they say is unsafe.
They applied for homeownership through Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, a nonprofit that builds and mortgages affordable homes for those in need. After meeting the qualifications, the couple attended information sessions and committed to 250 hours of “sweat equity,” which they can put into their own home or the home of another Habitat homeowner, according to the organization’s website. They chose the lot for their new home, a space in the Neuse Ridge community in east Raleigh.
“We were so excited,” Okafor said.
Construction on the house began Oct. 13, the opening day of the N.C. State Fair, in the parking lot of the Hunt Horse Complex. It is the first time that a Habitat Wake home has been constructed at the State Fair.
Habitat Wake, Lowe’s and the State Fair partnered to build a “North Carolina House” for the couple. About 400 volunteers from state agencies and Lowe’s built the house using materials manufactured in North Carolina or sold by North Carolina-based retailers.
“This house illustrates how much Habitat Wake looks to the local community to help with the need for affordable housing,” said Nancy Bromhal, director of annual fund and communications at Habitat Wake.
In Wake, “affordable housing” is defined as a space that can be rented or bought by people who earn 60 percent or less than the county’s median income of $78,800 a year. Wake is growing by about 63 people per day, causing rent prices to skyrocket.
In 2016, Habitat Wake is building 60 new homes locally, repairing 45 homes and funding construction of 100 homes globally.
“By building the home at the fair, we wanted to raise public awareness of the need for affordable housing,” Bromhal said. “An affordable home helps ensure a family’s long-term success.”
Fair guests were invited to visit the home and participate in hammering contests and other activities while volunteers erected walls, installed drywall and built cabinets, working for over 1,600 hours. They finished construction Oct. 22 and the family visited the fairgrounds to see their new home for the first time.
“When I saw the house, I almost wept,” Okafor said. “I didn’t know what to say. I thought, ‘Is this finally happening, or are we dreaming?’ ”
It was also Chisimdi’s fifth birthday, a significant celebration for the family. Chisimdi was born with a congenital heart defect and spent the first eight months of his life at Duke University Hospital. Because doctors at Duke saved his son’s life, Offia wanted to find a job at the hospital to repay them.
Offia has worked at Duke Hospital for more than a year, and Okafor is a part-time certified nursing assistant.
Their new home will be moved Oct. 30 via trailer to Neuse View Drive. Originally, volunteers had planned to transport it Oct. 23, the final day of the State Fair, but the move was delayed because of flooding from Hurricane Matthew and coordinating with a mover.
A few tasks remain, including electrical wiring, plumbing and installing appliances, before the family can move in. The goal is to finish the house by the end of November, Bromhal said.
Chisimdi and Kosarachi can’t wait to play and run around in their new house, Okafor said.
“God is the one that has made this happen. He has been working for us to get the house,” Okafor said. “We are so happy and grateful. Everything is not in vain.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; @madisoniszler