Habitat for Humanity celebrates first new home of 2018

A La Crosse family is starting to move into their new Habitat for Humanity home. It is the first house to be built in a multi-family development project. Leaders for the project said this is the first step in revitalizing the corner of 5th Avenue South and Mississippi Street in the Washburn neighborhood.

Community members and representatives from partnering organizations packed into the new home during an open house Saturday to see how it all came together. They’re excited to see this part of the community transform starting with this family of four.

Melissa Kochagian applied for a Habitat for Humanity home in the summer after her old home became too much to handle.

“It was expensive to pay for heating bills, and there was mice [that] would eat a lot of our stuff,” said Kochagain, the new homeowner.

She was notified in the summer that her application was accepted and from there she hit the ground running.

“Our motto is we offer a hand up, not a hand out,” said Kahya Fox, executive director of Habitat for Humanity- La Crosse area.

Kochagain completed 350 hours of work into the house alongside the more than 175 volunteers and countless partners who made the home possible.

“I can’t help but think part of that generosity and love is still within these walls and in this foundation,” said Alan Eber, president of the Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors.

But this isn’t the only home in the works. Next door, the organization has already started building a duplex. And one of its partners, Coulee Cap, will be starting on another development across the street.

“In about a year, year and a half, this whole entire block is going to be completely different,” Fox said.

It’s a change that Rick Hamilton has wanted to see for years. He said that he’s been trying to convince the city to invest in areas such as the Washburn neighborhood over the last decade.

He owned the previous building, and when there was a fire, he chose to tear it down and sell the property to Coulee Cap.

“It’s a difficult thing for an individual owner sometimes to take those huge losses. So, when the city gets involved with all their partners, amazing things can happen,” Hamilton said.

Once all the projects are completed, Habitat for Humanity said the three properties will have a combined tax base of over $1.3 million.

“So it’s not just about the families– it’s about the community. It’s about the neighborhood we’re in,” Fox said.

It’s a neighborhood that the Kochagian family can’t wait to be a part of and a home they’re excited to settle in to.

“I made sure the cable could get put in on Thursday so everyone can come in see. And we can watch the Super Bowl in a nice comfy house,” Kochagain said.