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NAPA — As gold-painted shovels glinted in the sunlight, a group of Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity staffers, volunteers and supporters held a symbolic groundbreaking on Friday morning for the nonprofit’s first Napa home build.

The two-story house, to be located at 891 Saratoga Way in southeast Napa, will be approximately 1,300 square feet and feature three bedrooms and two baths.

Project organizers have managed to shoehorn the future home onto a 3,004-square-foot remnant of land left between a new housing development and a senior care facility, near a turn where Saratoga Way, Capitola Drive and Erin Way meet.

“It’s a challenge to get the square footage” into such a shallow lot, “but it worked,” said Gerry Raycraft, director of Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity.

“The intention was to make sure the end product fit as much as possible into the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re really happy with the design.”

The lack of affordable housing in Napa “is such an important issue,” said state Sen. Bill Dodd, who spoke at the groundbreaking.

“Dollar for dollar, there is no better value than for what Habitat for Humanity does,” he said. “I’m glad we have this partnership to build this in Napa.”

“Housing is so expensive in Napa,” said Nancy Nelson, the architect for the project. “The need is great.”

As dozens attended the symbolic groundbreaking, neighbor Charlie Puett stood on his front porch at his home across the street and watched the event.

He’s lived in the neighborhood for one year, said Puett.

While he had the impression the lot was earmarked for overflow parking for the senior care home located next door, “I don’t have a problem with the home,” he said.

“It won’t detract from the neighborhood, unless the people who move in don’t maintain it,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity has been working on the project for close to a year, said Raycraft.

In 2016, the City Council approved the $77,407 sale of the 3,004-square-foot parcel to Habitat for Humanity, clearing the way for the project.

The future home site is a remnant of lands Napa purchased in 1997 for its extension of Saratoga Drive east from Silverado Trail, a project completed in 2014.

In May 2016, council members approved the payment of affordable housing impact fees to reimburse the street improvement fund, then declared the site surplus property to allow its use for housing.

The home will be built partly with the labor of its future residents. The residence, which also includes a two-car garage, will be the first “ground-up” construction in the county for the nonprofit developer, whose local branch is based in Cordelia in Solano County.

Habitat describes itself as a “Christian housing ministry” that has built more than 800,000 homes worldwide since its founding in 1976. Its goal is to build homes that are “simple, decent and affordable.”

Nelson said that the Napa home will be “extremely energy efficient,” and use solar power.

According to a 2016 interview with Diane Agnone, executive director of the agency’s Solano-Napa chapter, Habitat’s process for finding a home’s new owner begins with an orientation meeting where visitors learn about the qualifications. That application process begins March 15 at Napa High School. Habitat will distribute specific information about that meeting in the coming weeks.

Construction could begin in early April and last about nine to 12 months.

“We’re hoping we’ll be able to recruit construction crews and volunteers in Napa,” said Raycraft.

Candidates for the new home must already live in the county and cannot have owned their own home within the past three years, and the nonprofit concentrates on aiding those living in substandard conditions.

A family chosen by Habitat then agrees to provide sweat equity — the signature of the nonprofit’s projects — to help raise a family’s future home from its foundations. Homeowners typically contribute between 250 and 500 total hours of construction labor, according to Agnone.

Once the home is complete, Habitat will finance – independent of any bank – a 30-year mortgage for the new residents, structured to cost no more than 30 percent of monthly income.

A 45-year covenant on the home ensures that it can only be resold to buyers making less than 80 percent of Napa’s median income.

Including the land purchase, Habitat’s Napa project should cost about $375,000, said Raycraft.

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.