Bill Capo / Action Reporter
NEW ORLEANS -- Most people would be horrified to have their brand new home completely gutted, but for Jovan Washington, it was time to smile with relief.
"I'm very happy," she said. "Bittersweet. I'm happy that we are finally getting a healthier house."
When we first met in July, Washington was in tears as she pointed out the Chinese Drywall she discovered in her new Habitat For Humanity home, and described strong odors, rusting pipes, and failing appliances, all the while worrying about her son Michael.
"And it is hard to explain it to a 7-year-old that we are going to have to one day move out of our home. Our home is what is making us sick," she said in July.
But Habitat stepped in, found a temporary home for Washington, and is now paying to have the Chinese Drywall removed.
"They responded very quickly," said Washington. "They moved very fast with me."
"But we simply felt, Bill, that it is the right thing to do," said Habitat For Humanity Executive Director Jim Pate. "Our families don't have the financial wherewithal to do it themselves, and they can't get a construction loan. And we think they deserve safe housing. That's why we exist."
Of the 350 homes built in the New Orleans area by Habitat since Katrina, 165 have tested positive for contaminated Chinese Drywall. 28 have been repaired and 72 more are in progress.
"Gutting them all the way down to the studs, replacing all electrical, all plumbing, all heating, all air conditioning components," Pate said.
"About another two to three months before we'll actually be in it for good," said a relieved Washington.
Habitat is paying $8 million for the repairs.
"The $8 million dollars is coming out of our normal fund raising and development, and it obviously is a cash crunch, and it slows down the building of new houses," Pate said. "Hopefully, one day we'll recover some of it, or all of it from the litigation, and that of course will go into building new houses."
Habitat officials say as they complete the remediation program, they'll do a testing program for the unaffected houses, just to make sure no new problems show up. And as for Washington, one thing that makes her smile is that when she moves home, her house will have a new look inside.
"We're gonna do the floors a different color, and the counter tops a different color, and paint it a little different from last time," Washington said.
"Great and surprising, because you got a new house, and redo it, but with some changes," said a smiling Michael Washington.