More affordable Habitat houses envisioned for Johnston County

Evelyn Morgan signs the frame of the door of her future home.
Evelyn Morgan signs the frame of the door of her future home. Courtesy Habitat for Humanity of Wake County

Evelyn Morgan’s signature on the door frame of her new home in Clayton marked not only a milestone for the family but a new chapter for Habitat for Humanity of Wake County.

The house the Morgan family will move into in a few months is the on-site manifestation of a merger of the Habitat for Humanity organizations in Wake and Johnston counties.

Rebecca Morgan, who lives in Benson, is buying the first Habitat home built in Clayton since 2002. She and two of her children, Ryan and Evelyn, visited the construction site Saturday.

Morgan has four children and works in a doctor’s office as a certified medical assistant, according to Habitat Wake.

So far, 20 Johnston County congregations have agreed to provide funds and volunteers to build the house in Clayton, the organization said.

The counties’ Habitat leaders expect the merger will lead to more Habitat construction in Johnston, with the county benefiting from from Wake’s robust organization.

Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes for qualified buyers who put in hours of labor on their and other Habitat houses.

Habitat in Johnston County had one full-time employee, former board chairman Dave Ferrell said in an interview, while the Wake office has 86 full-time and 18 part-time employees.

Ferrell said he was excited about the benefits expected to come to Johnston families who need affordable homes.

The Johnston group contacted Wake about a possible merger in 2016, he said. The change is nearly complete, awaiting approval of the final paperwork.

“It’s been 18 months of negotiations and it’s finally coming to fruition,” Ferrell said.

Habitat for Humanity of Johnston County started in 1991 and has completed 23 homes. It built one home in the county in 2017.

In a few years, Habitat officials expect they will be building five homes a year in Johnston.

Habitat Wake, established in 1985, has built nearly 650 affordable homes. According to Habitat Wake’s annual report, it built 57 new homes in the 2017 fiscal year, ranking it near the top for U.S. affiliates.

Johnston County’s population grew more than 13 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to U.S. census figures, and is home to more than 191,000 people.

More than 17,000 families in Johnston County are cost-burdened, said Nancy Nancy Bromhal, spokeswoman for Habitat Wake. That means they spend 30 percent or more of their gross income on housing, and “therefore have an affordable housing need,” she said.

“We think there’s a lot of opportunity and a lot of need,” she said. “We’re excited about the opportunity to work there.”

Lynn Bonner: 919-829-4821, @Lynn_Bonner