by Sandi Austin
“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4
Of the 100 or so homes nestled in a southwest Longmont neighborhood, 21 are Habitat for Humanity homes, some having been constructed prior to the 2013 flood.
Rebecca Shannon, Outreach and Volunteer Manager of Habitat for Humanity of the St. Vrain Valley, gave me a hardhat and led me through a home construction in what is called the Poplar Grove development.
We walked around in a four-bedroom unit that, when completed, will be occupied by a single mother and her four children. The mother works full time in the H.R. Department at Walmart.
“We have all types of families living here so far,” Rebecca explained. “There are residents living in this neighborhood who are in the healthcare industry, the restaurant business, and employed by the St. Vrain Valley School District, to name a few.”
When Habitat for Humanity purchases a property on which to build, the required permits are acquired, and then the application process starts for families wanting a home of their own. Families that apply for homeownership must have full time employment, good background and criminal history checks, and the ability to repay the mortgage. The families also must have a connection with Longmont, by either already living here or working at a Longmont business.
“They must also put in sweat equity in their future home,” Rebecca added. “Of those hours put into helping with the construction, 24 hours of classes in finance, home maintenance and being a good neighbor are required. Many people have the misconception that these are free homes – giveaways – but that’s not the case. These people are employed full time and pay a mortgage, just like everyone else.”
The only difference is that these qualifying families receive no-interest loans, and their mortgage payments are calculated at 27 percent of their income when they move in.
“We don’t make a profit off selling these homes to qualifying families,” Rebecca said. “Habitat for Humanity buys the property, and sometimes properties are donated, and that’s the ideal situation.”
Rebecca went on to explain that Habitat for Humanity is always looking for partners. A lot of local businesses, clubs and church groups volunteer their time and talents. Some businesses and contractors provide financial support with material donations or volunteer work.
“As an example, Whirlpool donates all the appliances to these homes,” she added, “and the families can choose the color they want.”
Habitat for Humanity sells homes at cost and are able to do so, thanks to the volunteers. As Rebecca put it, it makes homeownership possible for those who otherwise would not be able to purchase a home.
“These volunteers who help build believe in what we’re doing,” Rebecca said. “They want to do it right, do it safely, and with pride.”
Bob Dugan, a retired Boulder builder, has been volunteering for Habitat for Humanity for eight or nine years. “This is a very worthwhile cause,” he said. “You feel more blessed when you’re helping.”
“Volunteers benefit so much,” Rebecca said. “They hear the families’ stories, get to know them, and find out that, even with differing social or economic status, we celebrate what we do have in common.”
The families that have already established homeownership in Poplar Grove have a sense of pride and a hopeful future, just as future families will come to know.
“And you will feel secure, because there is hope, you will look around and take your rest in security.” Job 11:18
(During our December Compassion Offering, please remember Habitat for Humanity, which is already working on plans for two cottages that will be handicapped accessible. Let’s help the keep up the good work!)