Airraka Murphy stands on the front porch of her new home in Portland. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

Airraka Murphy is building her own home. She’s actually doing the work and driving nails into the wood that will become her own two-story home in Portland.

“I’ve always wanted to be a homeowner,” said Murphy, 31. “It’s always been my dream. My kids deserve it.”

Murphy, who works as a customer service representative, said she has been working hard for this accomplishment and she’s excited about it for her and her three children, ages 8, 9 and 10. She chose the home’s location, which was a vacant lot. “It’s quiet. (I like the) community center on the next block so my kids have somewhere to go.” Her new home on Bank Street will be only two blocks from the Portland Promise Center, which has educational and after-school programs for children.

Murphy, who now lives in the Russell neighborhood, will own the home thanks to a partnership between Google Fiber and Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville. The home is being built through this weekend by Murphy and a team of community volunteers.

With volunteer labor and the donations of money and materials, Habitat builds and renovates decent, affordable houses for people who make between 30 and 80 percent of the area’s median income. All Habitat homebuyers must demonstrate a reliable source of income and invest 400 hours of sweat equity in their home and in homeowner education classes. Houses are sold at no profit with a zero interest, 20‐year loan. The homeowners’ mortgage payments are reinvested to build more Habitat homes.

By the time her home is finished, Murphy will have completed her 400 hours.

FedEx employee and volunteer Brian Zahn drives nails into the side of a Habitat for Humanity home. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

Google Fiber, which is bringing super-high speed internet to Louisville, donated $45,000 to the project, which is about half of the cost of Murphy’s home, and Google Fiber employees are volunteering their time to help build the home. Portland is the first neighborhood in Louisville to get the fiber-optic cables installed by Google Fiber. The speedy internet will bring more opportunity to this economically distressed area.

“Google Fiber is excited to be able to help Louisville Habitat build a home for Airraka and her family,” said Jess George, community impact manager for Google Fiber in a press release. “Like Habitat, our goal is to provide connection to the community — we work with community partners to improve internet access and support programs and partnerships that focus on community, technology and the internet.”

Habitat for Humanity in Louisville has built or renovated more than 90 homes in the Portland neighborhood and recently completed seven home repair projects through its Love Your Neighborhood program. In early 2018, Habitat will complete its 500th home in Louisville.

“Working alongside homeowners, volunteers and generous sponsors, Habitat for Humanity builds decent and affordable housing that creates change for families that is transformative and lasting,” said Rob Locke, chief executive of Habitat for Humanity of Metro Louisville, in the press release. “This mission is possible because of the continued financial and volunteer support of generous and socially‐aware companies like Google Fiber. We are ever grateful for their partnership.”

Susan Overton, director of development for Habitat, said in an interview the homes in Portland were designed to fit into the neighborhood’s aesthetic. “We’re building a home for Airraka, but also for the neighborhood. We’re investing in the neighborhood just like Google Fiber is investing in the infrastructure of the neighborhood.”

She said Habitat’s and Google Fiber’s work in Portland would bolster the neighborhood. “That infrastructure brings a lot of small businesses and economic development to the area. And the homeowners will have cheaper, faster internet, which opens up the world to them.”

Habitat volunteers John Rosenthal and Elaine Goodlett cut and measure boards for a new Habitat for Humanity home. | Photo by Lisa Hornung

There are usually around 18-22 people a day working to build a home, said house leader Steve Holm. Holm, who is also a volunteer, has built about 100 Habitat houses. By the end of the four-day build, there will be walls, the beginnings of a roof, windows and doors, so it will be secure, he said.

Murphy expects to move into her home around February or March 2018, and she’s grateful to all the volunteers who helped her. “I appreciate it,” she said. “They did not have to do this. Without them, I really couldn’t do this.”

And she’s especially proud of her own work on the home. “I built it. I own it!”

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