Habitat for Humanity of DeKalb County is seeking low income families in substandard housing who would like to realize the dream of homeownership.
Area residents are invited to get information about this program and to learn how to apply during a meeting on Thursday, September 25 at 6:00 p.m. at the Smithville First United Methodist Church Christian Fellowship Center, which is located across from Love-Cantrell Funeral Home. Applications must be postmarked by Tuesday, September 30.
Habitat is accepting applications from those wishing to become the next partner family in DeKalb County. "We're having this meeting with the hope of choosing a family," said Marie Blair, member of the Habitat Family Selection Committee.
The purpose of Habitat is to build homes and then sell them to eligible families at no interest and for no profit. Habitat is looking for families who could not otherwise afford a home.
For families to qualify, they must meet basic qualifications, need for housing, ability to pay, and a willingness to partner. Families must have been residents of DeKalb County for a least one year prior to September 1, 2014 and they must be a United States citizen or have permanent resident alien status.
"They may be living in overcrowded housing. It may be that they are spending more on their rent and utilities, more than 30% of their income. They may not have a house. They may be staying with others. They may be living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. That's how we determine need," said Blair.
"The second qualification is ability to pay. Some people have the mistaken idea that it's a free house. It's not a free house. It's interest free. But when we actually sell the house to the person they are expected to pay the amount of the cost of the house without any interest, which if you've ever made a mortgage payment or a payment on anything you know that is a huge savings," said Blair.
For a family of four, the maximum allowable annual income is $26,510 which is 55% of the median income for families in DeKalb County. If you are age 60 or have a special needs household member, the maximum allowable annual income level for a family of four is $28,920. The income levels vary according to family size.
Partner families making payments now on their homes are helping to subsidize the next home to be built. "All of the families who are making payments now, and we have four families who are already living in houses, pay that money back to Habitat through their payments each month and that builds the fund so that we're able to build another house. We're not self sustaining yet because we don't have enough houses but we're told that when we have ten houses, that will be enough so that we won't have to be so concerned about fundraising every time we get ready to build a house," according to Blair.
Eligible families must be willing to do volunteer work and learn basic home repair and maintenance practices and budgeting. "To be a partner family with Habitat you have to earn "sweat equity". It's hours that you work. You can work on someone else's house. You can do community service projects. Whatever your skill level is you can earn "sweat equity" by doing that job. The partner families must perform a certain number of "sweat equity" hours. I believe the total is 500 hours over the entire time before they move into their house. But they actually must have 100 hours before ground is broken," said Blair.
"We also expect all of our partner families to attend an education course. We have a committee called "Family Support" that works on budgeting issues and home maintenance. If you rent a house and something goes wrong you call your landlord. If it's your house there is no landlord to call. You have to know the things you can do and the things you might need to seek professional help for. We want our families to learn how to do that before they jump into home ownership without realizing all the responsibilities that go with it," Blair continued.
Habitat will conduct screens and criminal background checks on applicants. "Once a family passes all the milestones, we screen them for income. We will verify employment and other income and have a credit check completed to determine if they are truly in need or can afford a house. One of the last things we do before approving a partner family, we have a group who makes a visit to the home where they live now but that is not to do a white gloves test. It's announced and planned with the family when it's convenient for them. We're really looking at what are their housing needs. Our Family Selection Committee will then make a recommendation to our board of directors. The board is the group that ultimately approves the family, Blair concluded.
If you can't attend the meeting on Thursday, September 25 or need more information call 615-215-8181 and leave your name, address and phone number.