Crystal Habitat for Humanity Homes Scattered sites, Crystal

No. of homes: Five Type: Single-family resident Size: 1,288 to 2,708 square feet Developer: Habitat for Humanity

Details: A series of vacant lots in Crystal that once held blighted, foreclosed homes will now support new single-family residences built by the nonprofit Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity under a city resolution approved last week. 

Seven former blighted single-family homes that were among the worst foreclosed-upon and abandoned properties in Crystal's post-World War II neighborhoods were acquired in 2010 by the city's Economic Development Authority (EDA) using federal funds provided through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. 

That program was made available to cities to buy and demolish dilapidated housing and use resulting vacant land to construct new housing. Under its rules, most of the new housing is meant to be market-rate, while some was to be reserved for homes affordable for buyers making less than 50 percent of the city's median income. 

The two affordable-housing lots of the seven were quickly snapped up by Habitat for Humanity, which constructed and sold new homes on them last year. The city, however, has been unable to find market-rate builders for the remaining five lots, and so proposed transferring them to the nonprofit as well. 

"We've had a lot of positive comments about the first two homes Habitat built in Crystal," City Planner John Sutter said at the EDA's Nov. 8 meeting. "They can build a product that would be considered a 'move-up' home in Crystal by keeping it affordable thorough donated land and materials and by using volunteer labor."

The houses are designed to resemble the modest, postwar ramblers that dominate the first-ring suburb from the outside, but will actually be larger than the average home in the city and will feature modern, energy-efficient amenities.

Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity's acquisition manager, Mike Nelson, said two of the five new homes will be submitted for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designation. Three of the homes are to be built next year, with the last two going up in 2014.

Don Jacobson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer. He can be contacted at