The construction site of the Sandra and Ray Flores’ new home in Everett. Scheduled to be complete in December, the couple must perform 500 hours of sweat equity on the job site. (Kevin Clark / The Daily Herald)

Summer sweat equity builds ‘Christmas gift’ home for family

EVERETT — A new house is rising on the site of one that burned down in May 2014.

The house is being built by Habitat for Humanity of Snohomish County. Earlier this month, a young Everett family of five found out that it was to be their home.

“I think I was in shock because I was speechless for a few moments,” said Sandra Flores, remembering the call that delivered the good news.

“The kids were really loud in the background so I was trying to shush them the whole time,” she said. “Then I told my husband and we were jumping up and down, praising God.”

Sandra Flores met her husband, Stephen Ray Flores Otoya, in Peru in 2003. He was working for Flores’ extended family there.

When Flores returned to the U.S. to study at the University of Washington, they carried on a long-distance relationship for the next four years.

Stephen emigrated to the U.S. and they married in 2007. Stephen found work at Boeing, and the couple have three children: Ray, 5, Sasha, 3, and Matias, who is just shy of 2 months. Sandra is a stay-at-home mom.

When they applied for housing through Habitat for Humanity, they were living in a run-down, two-bedroom apartment off Casino Road.

It wasn’t a safe neighborhood, Flores said. Her husband’s bicycle was stolen from their porch.

“There was really bad mold, like black mold inside the wall,” she said.

They moved to another two-bedroom apartment off Broadway, but it still has problems, such as a lack of a place for the children to play outside.

Pat Sanvik, who served on Habitat for Humanity’s selection committee, said the choice of Flores’ family came down to a determination of need.

“It wasn’t safe for the kids to go outside to play. They’ve been playing on the outdoor walkways,” Sanvik said.

The lack of space, plus the fact that they are a one-income family and wouldn’t be able to get a conventional mortgage, led the committee to choose the Floreses, Sanvik said.

“Owning a home, especially at this time with prices constantly going up, would be impossible without Habitat,” Flores said.

A typical Habitat for Humanity arrangement means the nonprofit holds the title to the home until the mortgage is paid off by the residents. Habitat for Humanity does not make a profit on the house.

The new owners are expected to contribute 500 “sweat-equity” hours to their new home, either in construction or though volunteer work, such as at the Habitat Store on Broadway.

“We’re convinced this is a family that will care very much for this home,” Sanvik said.

The construction managers, Flores said, have been good to work with when the family pitches in.

“I have never done that before, I barely even know how to hold a hammer, but they always find something for us to do,” Flores said.

The new two-story house on 23rd Street will have three bedrooms and two bathrooms, with a footprint of about 600 square feet per floor, Flores said.

The house has been named Phoenix II, because it rose out of the ashes of the old house. It is expected to be finished by mid-December.

“It’s a perfect Christmas gift,” Flores said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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