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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A nationwide lumber shortage is poised to affect the number of homes South County Habitat for Humanity can build for needy families, so the group is appealing to the public for help.

COVID-19 volunteer safety restrictions, a host of other delays and the price of lumber are to blame. Lumber prices have soared more than 180% since last spring, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

“We’re noticing a price increase of 33% and more on almost every product we purchase — from our metal material, to our concrete material, to our lumber materials, everything has increased,” South County Habitat for Humanity Director of Operations Jay Shartenberg said.

Founded in 1990 and based in neighboring Charlestown, the nonprofit South County Habitat for Humanity builds, repairs and sells homes with affordable mortgages in partnership with low-income families.

The delays mean it takes longer to get the supplies, longer to build the homes and longer before homeowners can get inside their house.

The shortage is not unique to Habitat — it is affecting all home builders. The average price of a single-family home increased about $24,000 since April 2020 because of increased lumber costs, according to the home builders association.

“This is especially devastating for affordable housing projects which have already been delayed due to the pandemic. This is hurting families in need of a safe, decent place to call home,” South County Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Colin Penney said. “At a time when one in seven families in our community are struggling to pay housing costs and the world continues to grapple with the public health crisis and the economic impact of COVID-19, the importance of a place to call home has never been more pronounced.”

The organization raised more than $4,600 during 401 Gives, a statewide day of giving on April 1.

In addition to helping build and fix homes, Habitat also advocates for fair and just housing policies and provides training and access to resources to help families improve their shelter conditions.

“Habitat for Humanity’s work changes lives for the families we serve and for those who volunteer, donate and advocate beside them,” Penney said.

The organization said those who wish to help can do so by mailing a check to South County Habitat for Humanity, PO Box 68, Shannock, RI 02875 or by giving online. Donation options are located at southcountyhabitat.org/donate.

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