With her two young sons in the back seat, Vikke Garcia used to drive up and down streets in Boise looking for a home she could buy or rent. But with a weekly pay of $282, the pickings were almost non-existent.

"I quit looking," said Garcia, 43, who ended up in a small, two-bedroom apartment in Meridian.Her dream of living in a home disappeared in the effort to keep her family afloat - until now.

Within a few weeks, the Garcias will move into a new, three-bedroom home in Boise built by Habitat for Humanity.

"This is the first home I've ever had," Garcia said proudly.

She will be able to afford the home because the monthly payments for the $40,000 house will be less than $200 a month, about $100 a month cheaper than the rent for her cramped apartment.

How can that be?

The answer is fairly simple. The Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit ecumenical Christian organization formed in August, builds homes for low-income families largely with donated labor and materials.

The homebuyers get a 25-year no-profit, no-interest loan from the organization to buy the house.

The house payments made to the group are then used to purchase land and materials to build more homes.

In Garcia's case, all the money to purchase land and materials came from private donations. Hers is the first house to be built by the group, which won't be self-sufficient until 30 homes have been built and the owners are making payments, said group president Bob Frazier.

Getting another 29 homes built is a daunting task. The organization, affiliated with the international Habitat for Humanity group formed in 1976, hopes to build another four or fives homes in Boise in 1991.

"I hesitate to say we need more money, but it's true," said Frazier, a retired physician who has worked side by side with other volunteers to put up Garcia's home.

There's no doubt Boise needs a group like Habitat for Humanity, members of the organization said. The group currently has 150 applications on file from low-income families that need homes.

"It's discouraging to realize how many people we have to turn down," Frazier said.

But Boise's lack of housing for low-income families is still small enough of a problem "where you can nip it in the bud and make the quality of life in your community that much better," said group member Bill Stanley.

Garcia said that, although she wouldn't have the home without Habitat for Humanity, she doesn't feel there's a "charity" stigma associated with the group.

Part of the deal for Garcia to get the house requires her to put in 500 hours of "sweat equity."

"I'm working on the home, people who love me are working on the home, and I'm going to be paying for it," she said.

Garcia, who can be seen at the house site regularly with her two children, still marvels at the prospect of owning a home.