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Image of Future Habitat Homeowner Bernalynn Sargent and Beth Finch
Habitat homeowner Bernalynn Sargent left and Beth Finch who donated land for construction of two Habitat homes Rich Eldred Photo

Two Habitat Homes Near Completion In Brewster

By: Rich Eldred, Cape Cod Chronicle

BREWSTER, MA – One thing they aren’t making more of on Cape Cod is land. When you want to build an affordable home, volunteer labor, materials and funding can be found, but it all starts with land, and that can be the most difficult ingredient to find.

That’s why Habitat for Humanity of Cape Cod was delighted when Beth Finch of Brewster called and offered to donate most of her small home so two other families could have a local home.

Finch, who still lives next door off Red Top Road, donated 34,000 square feet of her 58,000-square-foot lot. It’s enough for two homes for two families.

“People seemed to talk about things for a long time,” Finch reflected. “Everybody talks about housing. I felt guilty after a while. When we moved here in the early ‘70s it was possible to buy or build a decent house on modest salaries, and we certainly had modest means. Now it is completely impossible.”

Before the Finches bought the land it was owned by naturalist John Hay. Finch said it took a long time to complete the process and many papers were signed.

“They did all the work,” she said of Habitat For Humanity. “I did nothing, which was wonderful.”

Image of one of the Phoebe Way homes
One of two Habitat homes nearing completion in Brewster Rich Eldred Photo

One home was built by veterans in memory of Bob Harding, a longtime Habitat volunteer and former Marine who passed away in 2019. The other home was built in memory of Nat Goddard and Gilbert Merritt, two other volunteers who were both members of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans. One home was available for those making 60 percent of the area median income the other for those at 80 percent of AMI.

Bernalynn Sargent, her husband Ryan, an Army and Marine vet, and two children, who are in first and third grade, are the owners of the veteran-built home.

“I love the area. It’s perfect,” Bernalynn said. “This was a huge surprise, a really good surprise because I did not know the location and they said I should come and pick the lot.”

She and her husband currently live in West Yarmouth.

“He’s still working at Cape Organics Landscaping,” Bernalynn said. “I work at the elementary school in West Yarmouth as a paraeducator. I hope to continue to work in the school system here at Nauset. We’re very excited to plant our roots because we’ve always moved around. We can finally settle in.”

The owner of the second home declined to be interviewed.

When the homes are finished Resilient Roots will do the clean up and landscaping with a low grow, low maintenance lawn. The landscaping is based on regenerative agriculture to encourage wildlife.

“These are super energy efficient homes,” said Tara Cronin, director of resource development for Habitat.

Habitat will be building eight more affordable homes in Dennis and Wellfleet. The deadline for applications for these is May 13. Once the applications and mortgage documents are filled out volunteers at Habitat review the information to make sure the applicants are qualified before they are entered in a lottery. Successful applicants put in 250 hours of sweat equity volunteering for Habitat and working on the construction of the homes. They’ll get an official mortgage and be removed from the housing crisis.

Image of volunteers shingling at Phoebe Way
Volunteers work on a Habitat home off Red Top Road in Brewster Rich Eldred Photo

“These homes aren’t free. They cost a lot of money,” said Habitat Community Relations Manager Sandra Harrison. “To build them costs over $350,000. These families have an affordable mortgage.”

The homes are volunteer built. Some companies volunteer their employees.

“We build on Tuesdays and Saturdays,” Harrison said. “Des McMahon is our construction site supervisor.”

Many volunteers come back year after year to work on homes.

“We’re building a community. Doesn’t it feel that way?” said Harrison. “We’ve got volunteers building with us who are also becoming friends with each other and donors becoming friends with families. We couldn’t do it without everybody. It’s a beautiful thing. Our volunteers are from all ages and demographics.”

The Phoebe Way homes have many sponsors and funders, including Bill and Judy Weil, Peter Soule, the Friends of Bob Harding, The Church of the Holy Spirit in Orleans, the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club in Brewster — which recently donated $50,000 — major funder Nancy Renn, Fraser Construction, which contributed all the roofing labor, and KAM Appliances, which contributed five appliances to each home.