By Terry Pickett
Special to The PREVIEW
As we begin to build our 26th home in Archuleta County, we pause to reaffirm our commitment to the community and its citizens. Here is a brief summary of what Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County does, why we do it and how we do it. We welcome your comments and invite you to be part of this newest build.
What we do
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit Christian organization that partners with future and current homeowners to build simple, decent and affordable housing for low-income families. Volunteers and future homeowners work together in the building process. Building affordable housing is one of the key planks in eliminating poverty.
Why we do it
Every day, more and more families find themselves in a struggle to keep a decent roof over their heads. Caught in punishing cycles of unpredictable rent increases, overcrowded conditions, or lack of access to land and affordable financing, these families live with a constant burden of uncertainty, stress and fear.
Habitat for Humanity knows that safe, decent and affordable shelter plays an absolutely critical role in helping families to create a new cycle, one filled with possibilities and progress. Affordable homeownership frees families and fosters the skills and confidence they need to invest in themselves and their communities. The outcomes can be long-lasting and life-changing.
With a little help, Habitat homeowners are able to achieve the strength and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves and their families. They are empowered to overcome the barriers that so often stand between their families and better, healthier, more financially stable lives.
Studies conducted by academics and experts draw a straight line between housing quality and the well-being of children. Surveys of Habitat homeowners show improved grades, better financial health and parents who are more sure that they can meet their family’s needs. And, strong and stable homes help build strong and stable communities.
Decent shelter provides the solid foundation for all of this. It is the platform on which a family lives out today’s realities and prepares for tomorrow’s transformations. Every Habitat house changes lives: those of the families who help build them and pay an affordable mortgage or loan and all those who offer them a hand up in a time of need. One of the underlying scourges of poverty is isolation. So, when we say we build communities as well as houses, we mean that diverse neighborhoods break the cycle of isolation, creating lasting and respectful relationships among neighbors.
How we do it
Families in need of decent, affordable housing apply for homeownership with their local Habitat for Humanity. Applicants must have incomes of 30 percent to 60 percent of the area medium income; must be without adequate housing, but able to afford the mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance; must be unable to obtain a loan elsewhere, yet have reasonable credit scores.
Habitat’s family selection committee selects homeowners based on three criteria:
• The applicant’s level of need.
• Their willingness to partner with Habitat.
• Their ability to repay a mortgage through an affordable payment plan.
As part of their willingness to partner, Habitat’s homebuyers invest hundreds of hours of their own labor, called sweat equity, working alongside volunteers and other Habitat homeowners. Habitat homes are affordable because Habitat does not make a profit; the homes are sold with a zero- to low-interest loan and volunteers help build them. It is a program that works — a hand up, not a handout. We build homes mostly with volunteer and donated labor. Often, we receive donations of material from local, regional and national organizations.
Habitat follows a nondiscriminatory policy of family selection. Neither race nor religion are factor sin choosing Habitat’s homeowners. Habitat acts in conformance with the Fair Housing Act and other applicable legislation.
For more information, contact Habitat for Humanity of Archuleta County: 703 San Juan St., Pagosa Springs, CO 81147, 264-6960, habitatarchuleta.org.
By Terry Pickett