Durham Habitat's Bonsai is "Just Right"!


"Wanda's enthusiasm is infectious. At the kickoff, she excitedly gave us a 'tour' of her home-to-be, even though it was just a concrete platform. That moment drove home how enriching it can be to help people put their lives back together," said George Stuart, Habitat Board Chair.

By Blake Strayhorn

On a recent Friday evening, a small group braved cold temperatures to celebrate the kick-off for a most unique Habitat home: our first small home. Measuring just 504 square feet, Habitat’s first small home design, the “Bonsai” delights its future owner, Ms. Wanda. 

As our kick-off group circled up, Ms. Wanda told us, “I really didn’t expect to be here at all, and especially not at the corner of E. Main and Guthrie!”

Ms. Wanda said, “When I finally got up the courage to apply for a Habitat home, thanks to Mrs. Mills” - that’s Gail Mills of the Durham Rescue Mission, where Ms. Wanda is a graduate - “I prayed, God, please let me find out soon this won’t work. I’ve been disappointed too many times in my life to get my hopes up and then have it fall through. Give me a sign soon, yes or no.”

“I told Habitat, surely I don’t qualify.  I’m too old, and I don’t have children. Habitat said, no, not a problem. No such thing as too old for a Habitat home, and Habitat families can be one person or more.”

“But, I’m a felon. Surely my past will keep me from being approved to buy a home. Again they said, not a problem.” Depending on circumstances, Habitat partners with the formerly incarcerated.

Habitat partner, Ms. Wanda, says the Bonsai is just right for her.  Her friend, Ms. Linda says she wants one half that size! Small homes aren’t for every family, but they play a part in Habitat’s innovate efforts to provide more affordable housing in Durham.

“When they pulled out a design for a Habitat home, one with two bedrooms, I said I don’t need all that.”

“They said, how about the Bonsai, Habitat’s small home?” Ms. Wanda continued, joyfully. “It is small, right at 500 sq. ft. One bedroom, a bath, kitchen and a living area.” 

“It’s just perfect for me!” Ms. Wanda exclaimed. 

“And then I heard the address is the corner of Guthrie and E. Main St.  Well, I just knew this was meant to be. My mom’s maiden name is Guthrie!”

Ms. Wanda’s home is sponsored by the Durham Habitat Board of Directors, who recognize that Durham’s growth and construction boom means housing costs are rising. “The Board is excited to finance and help build this small home which is a first for Durham Habitat," said current Habitat Board Vice-Chair, Jane Williams.

More and more of our Durham neighbors are being priced out of the housing options in their neighborhoods. Many families simply don't make enough money to afford Habitat’s average mortgage payment of $550; their incomes are too low to buy a typical Habitat home.

"We were all excited to help Wanda raise the first wall of her new Habitat home,” said Habitat Board Vice-Chair, Jane Williams.  


Habitat small homes are a part of the solution. Habitat estimates it can build and sell a small home for a monthly mortgage of around $350.  Small homes aren’t for everyone, and they won’t replace our 3 or 4 bedroom, 1,200 sq. ft. homes, but they will provide another option. 

Habitat has been building in Durham since 1985, and we’ve built - and sold - more than 350 homes in partnership with hard-working neighbors in Durham.  We’ve also repaired more than 250 homes for low-income neighbors who own their homes. But with 15,000 Durham families paying more than 50% of their income for their housing, which is often sub-standard, we must do more. 

 "Finding ways to provide affordable housing options for all members of our community has been a focus of Durham Habitat.  From the Homeowner Incubation Program and the volunteer kids programs, to floor plans for homes that meet the needs of one or two person families, we are always looking for more options,” said immediate past Habitat Board Chair, Jennifer Trapani.

Want to support strong women and innovative affordable housing solutions? Make a donation to Durham Habitat today and build strength and stability with your neighbors. 

Habitat is committed to exploring all opportunities, traditional and innovative, and we welcome your partnership as we strive to build a Durham where all of our neighbors have a safe, warm place to call home. We know small homes won’t be right for everyone, but they are one way low-income neighbors can afford to buy a home. For Ms. Wanda and neighbors like her, they’re just right and a great addition to Habitat’s housing options.  To learn more or to get involved, visit durhamhabitat.org


Habitat Success Stories

Growing up in East Durham, Tora saw the neighborhood decline and bounce back. She was excited to partner with the Streets at Southpoint and Belk to build and purchase her own home in East Durham -- making her part of the neighborhood's revitalization.