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What is Habitat For Humanity?
Habitat for Humanity is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing by building homes in partnership with families in need. The ministry of Habitat is to provide simple, decent, affordable housing to those who do not qualify for or cannot afford a conventional mortgage. The Habitat program is about home ownership, a long-term solution designed to break the poverty cycle. We envision a world in which everyone has a safe and decent place to live.
What is the Historical Background?
Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, by Linda and Millard Fuller. The program developed from the concept of "partnership housing," based on Christian principles, where those in need of adequate shelter work side by side with volunteers from all walks of life to build simple, decent houses. In 1984, Habitat's most famous volunteer, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, along with his wife, Rosalyn, participated in their first Habitat build project. Their personal involvement in Habitat's ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat's work across the nation. Today, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 500,000 homes worldwide. More than 1,000 of those homes have been erected in Canada. Habitat for Humanity Canada (HFHC) was born in 1985, with the formation of the first Canadian affiliate in Winkler, Manitoba. In early 1988, an HFHC national office was established. It is currently located in Waterloo, Ontario. There are currently 70 affiliates, at least one in each province and territory.
Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands became an affiliate in 1999 and built its first home that year. Since then, homes have been built in Brockville, Gananoque, Newboro and Prescott.
How does Habitat For Humanity Work?
Through volunteer labour, efficient management and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, Habitat builds simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner (partner) families. Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable, no-interest mortgages. The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund, which is used to build more houses. Habitat for Humanity is not a give-away program. In addition to mortgage payments, each homeowner invests hundreds of hours of their own labour, called "sweat equity," into the building of their house and the houses of others.
Who Qualifies for a Home?
The three criteria to qualify for a Habitat home are (1) need for affordable housing, (2) ability to repay a Habitat mortgage and (3) willingness to partner with Habitat. Need for affordable housing is defined by a family income that is below the government-set Low Income Cut-Off (poverty line) for their particular region, and existing living conditions that are inadequate in terms of structure, cost, safety or size. The ratio of shelter expense to total income is also factored. Ability to repay a Habitat mortgage requires that the family has a stable income sufficient to cover the monthly mortgage payments and other expenses that come with home ownership. Homeowners must demonstrate a willingness to partner with Habitat by contributing 500 hours of volunteer labour ("sweat equity") toward the building of their home.
How are the families chosen?
Families are chosen on the basis of the Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands selection criteria.
What do the Families Contribute and what do they receive in return?
In addition to mortgage payments, each homeowner invests 500 hours of their time to assist in the building of their and other Habitat homes.
In return, Habitat homeowners are given the unique opportunity to buy a home with an interest-free mortgage, allowing them to gain substantial equity they would not if renting. They also acquire a
safe, affordable place to live and the pride of home ownership.
How do we acquire land?
Acquiring affordable land has been one of Habitat for Humanity's greatest challenges. Habitat seeks the assistance of individuals, corporations and governments at all levels in acquiring suitable donated land. Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands has been fortunate to have the cooperation of local municipalities. Habitat also relies on individual donors for land donations. As a charitable organization, Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands can issue a tax receipt for donated land.
How are the Homes Built?
Through volunteer labour, efficient management and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, Habitat builds simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner. Habitat houses follow standardized design criteria that maintain the "simple and decent" archetype. Most Habitat projects are single dwellings or semi-detached homes, but Habitat for Humanity is expanding the scope of its projects to include restorations and refurbishments, condominiums and row housing projects.
How does this Program Benefit the families and communities in the long run?
Over time, a family's equity in their home increases. Habitat families often see an improvement in their financial situation since the percentage of their income being spent on housing remains at approximately 30%. Prior to purchasing a Habitat home, many of these families are spending over 50% of their income on rent. A safe, healthy living environment contributes to the positive growth and development of children. Habitat has recorded many examples of children within Habitat families becoming healthier, completing a post-secondary education and establishing successful careers.
Communities benefit as former renters become homeowners who contribute to the tax base. Habitat build projects also offer an opportunity for community members of all walks of life to come together and work side
by side in a collaborative way. As the poverty cycle is broken, and a family's financial situation improves, their dependence on local social services is decreased. In addition, pride of ownership leads to a renewed sense of confidence, and along with their stable, long-term housing arrangement, they become long-term contributors to the community and the local economy.
How are the Homes Funded?
Habitat builds homes with volunteer labour and as much donated or cost-reduced material as possible. Fundraising takes place to help offset expenses of materials, services and land when they are not available through donations. Financial support is received from individuals, corporations, service groups and the faith community. Profits from the ReStore also support building projects. Mortgage payments from current homeowners are used to fund the building of future homes. Currently, a three-bedroom Habitat house in our community would be appraised between $165,000 and $180,000. Prices will differ slightly depending on location and the costs of land, labour and materials. Habitat houses are affordable for low-income families because there is no profit included in the sale price, and no interest is charged on the mortgage. The typical amortization of a Habitat mortgage in our community is 20 to 25 years.
Who Holds The Mortgage?
The mortgage is held by Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands until it is paid off.
How are the Donations Distributed and Used?
Donations made to Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands are used as designated by the donor. Gifts received by Habitat for Humanity Canada that are designated to a specific affiliate or project are forwarded
to that area. Financial statements are available from Habitat for Humanity Thousand Islands or Habitat Canada.
How does Habitat Relate to Government?
Habitat for Humanity accepts government support as long as none of the conditions involved violate Habitat's principles.
How is this a hand up and not a Hand out?
Habitat houses are sold to families, not given to them free of charge. In addition, families help to build their own home. By building homes at low cost, requiring no down payment, and by not charging interest
on the mortgage, Habitat for Humanity is able to provide an opportunity, or a "hand up," for families to buy a home. These families do not qualify for or cannot afford a conventional mortgage.
What is the revolving Fund For Humanity?
The homeowners' monthly mortgage payments go into a fund that is used to build more homes. The more homes that exist, the more cash flow there is available for further building. This "revolving fund for
humanity" fuels exponential growth in the number of houses that are built over time. Habitat partner families help other families be lifted out of poverty housing through their mortgage payments. Money and materials donated to Habitat for Humanity builds are never lost to the community: They are recycled over and over to build more and more homes for families in need.
What Happens When the Financial Position of the Family/Homeowner Changes?
The income of all Habitat homeowners is reviewed on an annual basis. If income increases, monthly mortgage payments are adjusted to remain at a percentage of their monthly income. If income decreases, usually
due to a temporary situation such as a job loss, similar adjustments may be made to maintain affordability during this period of decreased cash flow. Habitat for Humanity Canada is committed to educating and
supporting partner families toward successful home ownership.