In Westminster, dreams of home ownership, leavened with sweat equity

It was shortly after 8 a.m. Saturday, and there were doughnuts on the table and dust in the air in a home on the unit block of South Court Street in Westminster. About a half dozen volunteers, including the soon-to-be new homeowner, were taking pry bars to floors, screwdrivers to wall plates and hand trucks to dead appliances.

This was the latest Habitat for Humanity of Carroll County build, the eighth for the nonprofit, where a distressed property is rehabilitated and made available to a low-income person who otherwise might never own their own house.


“We believe strongly that income should not be a barrier to home ownership,” said Executive Director Bryan Lyburn. When the project is finished, the homeowner will “own her own home with a mortgage payment financed by a zero percent interest loan, which will be a total of less than $700 a month.”

A low cost to home ownership, but hardly a give-away, Habitat also requires that homeowners put in sweat equity, working alongside volunteers to rehab their future home, and on Saturday, Natasha Elizabeth was only too happy to do so.

“It’s absolutely life changing,” she said. “My son’s life, potential grand kids —having our own home means so much.”

Since leaving an abusive relationship, Elizabeth and her 6-year-old son, Gordon Braxton, had been staying on some friends’ enclosed porch.

Her new digs, when they are ready, will be a significant improvement, being a three-bedroom, two-bath split- level townhome with a yard.

“I really love the sun room, and I love that there’s a fence so we can have a dog,” Elizabeth said. “I’m really looking forward to my son having his own room and picking out colors and furniture — it’s really exciting!”

Even the demolition work, dirty and unfamiliar as it is, was interesting, according to Elizabeth.

“It will help prepare me for when I own the home,” she said. “Things I need to keep up, changing things, I kind of already know what to do.”

In charge of the construction work is Habitat construction manager Scott Swartz.

“This is definitely going to be the showcase house on this block,” he said.

This is the first build for Swartz who recently joined Habitat after owning his own construction and remodeling company for a few years. He said he was really attracted to Habitat’s mission and the way it operates.

“They don’t give you a house, they just give you the opportunity to get a house. The homeowner is a part of the whole process,” he said. “I think that really needs to get out there; I think people might show a little more interest in the whole thing.”

Though many of the volunteers on site had heard the word. People like John Ingle, of Mount Airy, who was volunteering for the first time.

“I was always interested in volunteering for Habitat,” he said. “I like what they do and how they operate, so I wanted to join.”


Megan Trimble got involved through her work at Penguin Random House. It was her first build as well.

“I just wanted to do something that would help people,” she said.

Ingle and Trimble plan to keep coming back over the course of the project.

“Over the next three months we will be working every Saturday. Some contractors will be coming through during the week,” Lyburn said. “We hope to deliver Natasha her new rehabbed home at the beginning of November.”

After than, he said, Habitat hopes to renovate another home in Westminster, and start two new projects in Taneytown sometime in 2019.

But for now, the focus is all on Elizabeth’s new home.

“We brought a lot of our sponsors down here to see the house. I can’t wait till they come back on Nov. 3,” Swartz said. “Seeing the before and after, it’s just going to be phenomenal.”

“It’s going to be really beautiful,” Elizabeth added. “I’ve seen some of the other work they have done for other people and it is so beautiful. I can’t wait to see it.”