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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. – July 21, 2010 – The market forces that bumped Habitat for Humanity up into the top 10 on a list of leading U.S. home builders prevent the nonprofit group from celebrating the milestone.

Habitat for Humanity moved up three spots to eighth on Builder magazine’s Builder 100 list for 2009, partly because for-profit builders struggled and potential homebuyers put off new-home purchases.

But the ranking does mean Habitat for Humanity is hard at work performing its mission of providing low-income families the opportunity to purchase safe, affordable houses, according to Manatee County Habitat Executive Director Ron Turner.

“It’s a reflection of what’s going on with the economy and housing need,” Turner said of the ranking. “We’re trying to address that.”

Habitat accrued 5,294 new-house closings nationally in 2009. The group repaired 710 homes in the United States, up from 621 in 2008. Around the world, Habitat built 23,657 new houses and rehabilitated or repaired 37,348 houses.

“We could not have accomplished this work without the sustained support of local leaders, volunteers and donors,” said Mark Andrews, senior director of U.S. Operations for Habitat for Humanity.

The Manatee organization completed six new homes in 2009, finishing off the Washington Park subdivision project in Palmetto. The final home of the year was the 100th in Manatee Habitat’s 16-year existence.

Manatee Habitat also has started a new initiative called A Brush With Kindness. The program offers low-income homeowners help with maintaining the exterior of their homes by providing painting, yard work or minor roof or siding repair.

As with new homes, beneficiaries must contribute a small amount financially and commit to sweat equity, which means helping with the project on their home or another Habitat project.

“It gives us the opportunity to serve more people who need safe, affordable housing in Manatee County,” Turner said.

In Sarasota County, Habitat for Humanity Sarasota has built 197 homes since its inception in 1985. Jordan’s Crossing, a development of 79 single-family homes across from Tuttle Elementary School, was completed in June 2009.

The organization has joined forces with Sarasota County on the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a federally funded initiative to provide low- to moderate-income families the opportunity to own rehabilitated foreclosed and abandoned homes.

Copyright © 2010 The Bradenton Herald, Fla., Timothy R. Wolfrum. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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