Cook County is a great place to live, if you can afford to do so. The housing market is limited, and compared to elsewhere in northern Minnesota, high priced. For many year-round residents in the local workforce, home ownership is an unachievable goal.
Sisters Anna and Sarah Hamilton, long-time residents and business owners, are aware of the challenges so many folks face, and they decided to do something about it. Creating Hamilton Habitat, a nonprofit dedicated to building affordable homes, they recently completed their second home in Grand Marais.
“Our objective is to give deserving, hard-working people a chance to buy their own home,” says Anna. “There is nothing like having your own space.”
Property purchase and home construction are entirely funded through donations of money, material, and labor. An anonymous donation of $100,000 allowed Hamilton Habitat to get started. The sale of homes and ongoing donations allow the organization to proceed from one home to the next.
To keep costs low, Hamilton Habitat orders the shell of a 16’ x 40’ home with a covered porch, siding and a roof that is delivered and placed on a foundation. Inside, there is a spacious, combined living and kitchen area, a large bathroom and one bedroom.
Local contractors are hired to complete the home. Spray foam insulation is added in walls, attic, and the crawl space. Once finished, the house has insulated windows, quality cabinetry, a propane furnace, and hardwood floors. The new homeowner provides appliances and furnishings.
The first house arrived in Grand Marais three weeks after it was ordered and quickly completed. A young couple that was ready to leave the area because they couldn’t find a house were the purchasers of the first Hamilton Habitat home. Due to the pandemic, delivery of the second home was delayed until Nov. 20, but local contractors got right to work and finished it by late January.
“Everyone pitched in,” Anna says. “Things can happen quickly if you have everyone lined up in advance.”
The second house was bought by a Grand Marais restaurant employee who had been living here for 15 years and was unable to find an affordable home. Both buyers are exactly the sort of folks the Hamilton sisters want to help out.
“We’re hoping to get people that want to stay here into homes,” Anna says. “Many are working multiple jobs to survive. They are the people who keep this town going. They deserve to have a little piece of the pie.”
Hamilton Habitat has their eye on a property in Grand Marais with room for four new houses, which will reduce infrastructure costs and allow for shared property maintenance.
“With multiple homes, the contractor is able to stay in one place and we can make progress on completion much faster,” Anna says.
The long-term goal is to complete two new homes per year. Ultimately, Anna said they would like to create an elder village for folks 55 and older. The homes would be one level with a shared green space so the homeowners could have pets and get outside with them.
Hamilton Habitat homes are deed-restricted to ensure they remain owner-housing. They cannot be rented, either for residential or vacation rental. The organization hopes to one day be financially able to sell houses on a contract-for-deed until the buyer builds enough equity to secure a mortgage.
While Hamilton Habitat is the entity that makes this affordable housing happen, it takes a community to build a home.
“Sarah and I are so grateful for all the support we’ve received from the community,” Anna says. “We’re grateful to be part of this community ourselves.”
A Community-Funded Project
Both homes were 100 percent donation-funded. Cook County Home Center has provided all materials at cost. Rob and Jennifer Nosker of Nosker Plumbing donated all their time and materials. Thompson Fuel donated two heaters and the installation. Below is a list of donors.
The contractors who made it happen:
- Cook County Home Center (All materials at cost and mucho support)
- Skadburg Masonry
- Tim Lederle (Wetland help)
- Mackey Electric
- Charlie Trovall (survey)
- Smith Construction
- Craig Brown (sheetrock)
- Smith Spray Foaming
- Nosker Plumbing
- Austen Graham (painting)
- Devyn Deschampe & Stacy Houglum (muscle)
- Red Beard (tree cutting)
- Fred Anderson
- Anonymous donor $100,000
- Linda Blaine & John Ottis
- Rena Rogers & Mary Lou Sorenson
- Dale & Jan Smith
- Laura Parcells
- Janet Silcox Evans
- Anonymous donor $5,000
- Pam Dixon
- Kristen Anderson & Janet
- Unknown donor at Trail Center
- Sandra McHugh
- Network for Good fundraiser $2,250
- Mary Deschampe
- Paula Gustafson & Donna Kamuth
- Kathy Adams
- Wedum Foundation $4,000
- Sandra & Jack McHugh
- Dan Nelson
- Daniel & Laura Hauge
- Grant & Laura Parcells
- Network for Good fundraiser $600
- Anonymous donors
- Kristen K. Regehr
- Network for Good fundraiser $570
- Mighty Cause Charitable Foundation
- My Sisters Place
- Linda Blain & John Ottis
- Thompson Fuel
- Mary Harrelson
- Lloyd Gilbertson
- Juli Bishop
- Janet Rose
- James Johnson
- Nina Simonowitcz
- Carolyn Davis
- Joanne Krause
- Alen Heine
- Rockwood Lodge & Outfitters
- Jean Trumbauer
- Jaymee Jackson
- Cathy Terry
- Wendy Johnson
- Annie Possis
2021 Donations to date
- Pattie Beyer
- Theron Olmen
- Network for Good fundraiser $250
- Cook County Home Center: interior doors
- Janet Simomen
- Carl Madson (Rockwood Lodge) web-site work and editor
- Matthew Petz Giguere
- Marland and Nancy Hanson
- Pat Zankman
- Grand Marais State Bank (for always supporting our projects)
- Rebel Girls Catering
- Penfield, Inc.
Contribute to the next project, “Jasper Hill,” by making a donation at Grand Marais State Bank or mail a donation to:
Hamilton Habitat Inc.
PO Box 1354, Grand Marais, MN 55604
Visit the website at hamiltonhabitat.wordpress.com or visit Hamilton Habitat on Facebook.
Story sponsored by Cook County Home Center