Monday, January 05, 2009

Fairway Oaks, Habitat for Humanity and Star power

The (London) Times Online is carrying a story which describes that houses built in Florida community called Fairway Oaks by Habitat for Humanity and bankrolled in part by Hollywood stars and former President Jimmy Carter are failing:
Fairway Oaks was built on northern Florida wasteland by 10,000 volunteers, including Carter, in a record 17-day “blitz” organised by the charity Habitat for Humanity.

Eight years later it is better known for cockroaches, mildew and mysterious skin rashes.
The problem is not Habitat for Humanity's model, which requires the new homeowners to work alongside volunteers to build the homes. Nor is it a lack of professionals doing the job to work on important parts of the home's construction.

No the problem is with these building blitzes. If 85 homes were built in 17 days that is a lot of construction and not a lot of supervision to go around. I don't know which county Fairway Oaks is located in, but most counties have a limited number of housing construction inspectors and thus they would be hard pressed to carry out the following list of inspections (at a minimum): foundation, rough plumbing, framing structure, rough electrical, finished plumbing, finished electrical, roofing and probably final move-in ready. In the rush and public push to complete 85 houses in 17 days, I can guarantee you that something got missed, and probably lots of things, in those rapid fire eight inspections per house (that comes to 680 inspections in 17 days. Having been through a couple of those inspections, when done adequately, some of them can take an hour. Assume 30 minutes for each inspection, you are talking 340 hours of inspection in 17 days.

Look, Habitat for Humanity is a quality program and when housing construction is conducted in a normal pace, it does exactly what it should--help people get a home. The quick solution is not to allow these kinds of mass building blitzes.

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