Faces of Habitat: Celebrating Our Community

When recent Habitat homebuyer Staci is not spending time with her two children ages twelve and six, or assisting them with virtual learning, she is tackling the daily duties of working for a local bank, which includes helping customers manage their finances while answering questions on mortgages and home equity lines of credit.

The past year has been a whirlwind for Staci – from completing her master’s degree in Human Service Administration, to meeting the requirements of the Habitat homebuyer program, to becoming a first-time homebuyer and accepting the keys to her new home. For her, it has truly been an unforgettable year.

Staci, like many of our homebuyers, juggles the rigorous requirements of our homeownership program alongside her professional and private life without missing a beat. Meeting obligations as such as 250 “sweat equity” hours–200 hours of volunteer service and 50 hours of homeowner education courses–is no easy feat, especially when trying to maintain a work-life balance while taking care of a family.

When most people think about Habitat for Humanity, they do not often think about the hard-working individuals and families working diligently behind the scenes to meet the demands of our homeownership program. Distant observers may not consider the stresses of completing those requirements while balancing school, employment, and family. This is one of the greatest misconceptions Habitat faces – that we give away homes or that supported purchasers of homes are not homebuyers at all, but individuals facing homelessness, on public assistance, or poverty stricken.

Our homebuyers are among government employees, hospitality workers, customer service representatives, and medical assistants. In this month’s issue of our Hearts and Homes newsletter, we meet Staci, who works in banking, and Carleigh, who works as an office administrator. We also meet Yvangela, a peer counselor who recently settled on her home in Pen Lucy, and Salih, who works in IT and now resides with his wife and children in Woodbourne-McCabe.

As the cost of living continues to rise, Habitat is in the unique position to offer a hand up to our partner families. These homebuyer partners often make enough to make ends meet, but may not qualify for a traditional bank loan. They may not be able to save enough for a down payment (68% of renters identify saving for a down payment as the greatest barrier to homeownership). They may face other barriers including limited family experience in owning a home.When this is the case, Habitat steps in to bridge the gap, working closely with partner family members who display a need for affordable housing. Homebuyers must be willing to partner with Habitat by completing financial and homeowner education, donating sweat equity, and working steadily with staff to meet rigorous qualifications.

Requirements include having at least two years of stable employment and an income between 30 to 80% of area median income. Buyers must have a credit score of 600 or more, have less than $1,000 in collections (to be paid off before becoming homeowners), and have an ability to afford a $2,500 earnest deposit.

Our homeownership team goes the extra mile to ensure that our homebuyers are not “cost burdened” by their mortgage – both in the present and in years ahead – by placing emphasis on long-term financial capacity. We take many considerations into account when determining the best home match for every homebuyer.

With the financial support of donors, Habitat works to ensure that a homebuyer’s monthly mortgage payment is no more than 30% of his/her annual gross income through a combination of a zero-percent interest mortgage and, if necessary, a soft second mortgage to reduce monthly payments. These requirements, together with ample homeowner financial education, credit monitoring, and ongoing support by staff, build confidence that a new, first-time homebuyer can succeed in meeting the challenge and opportunity.

Beyond the Home

It never fails. When we meet our homebuyers and get to know them, we are continuously amazed by their stories, drive, and dreams – most of them shared by all people. In addition to Staci, we also met Yvangela.

Yvangela, whose story will also be highlighted during our Faces of Habitat celebration, was used to apartment living but dreamed of owning a warm and inviting family home where her family could visit just as she had done growing up. However, life challenges seemed to always stand in the way. Habitat’s homeownership team was able to assist Yvangela not only with becoming a confident homebuyer, but also to see what life and budgets looked like beyond settlement day. Today, Yvangela owns our 20th home in Northwest Baltimore’s Pen Lucy neighborhood.

Another recent homebuyer, Carleigh, works as a college administrator. She was able to find a home in Milton- Montford and was excited to take part in the neighborhood revitalization activities happening throughout East Baltimore. Today, Carleigh is settled into her new home as a first-time homebuyer and a self-proclaimed “Habitat volunteer for life”.

Finally, there are Tasnim and Salih, who are part of a family of six who desired a home where each of their children could have their own space. Today, the family resides in a beautiful home with lots of room both indoors and outdoors for their children to play and make new memories, all within walking distance of playgrounds and a community greenspace in Woodbourne-McCabe.

These stories are just a glimpse of the 780 individuals who have purchased homes through Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake’s homebuyer program. Telling these stories helps us dispel the misconceptions surrounding our program. Prominent misconceptions include the idea that Habitat gives way homes. At the same time, deserving homebuyers may disqualify themselves from this life changing opportunity because of a stigma of accepting assistance or support.

From teachers, to drivers, to customer service representatives and nurses, each family invests hard work and dedication on an intensive path to homeownership. While attending homeowner education courses and completing sweat equity hours, partner families take steps to become strong future homeowners with the skills needed for success.

 

If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a Habitat homeowner, visit our homeownership page to learn more about the homebuyer process!

 

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About Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake

Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake (www.habitatchesapeake.org) brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope. Since 1982, Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake has built more than 770 homes in 18 communities, providing a brighter future for 2,700 children and family members. Homeownership is proven to transform lives – improving health, increasing children’s chances of academic success and offering an opportunity to build wealth across generations. Likewise, homeownership enhances neighborhoods by bringing tangible investment, engaged, long-term residents, rising property values and a sense of community.

Yvangela cuts the ribbon on her new home
Above: Staci poses for a family photo, and cuts the ribbon on her new home. Below: Carleigh cuts the ribbon alongside friends from Homeowner Services, and Tasnim and Salih cut the ribbon on their home in Woodbourne-McCabe.

Attention Habitat homeowners and Applicants: We hope you and your loved ones are all safe and well! While we have suspended in-person meetings at this time due to social distancing recommendations, we are still here to serve you and answer questions you may have. Whether you are in the application process or an existing homeowner, our Homeowner Services staff is here to assist. Currently, the best way to reach us is to call our main office line at 410-366-1250 (9am-5pm) and follow our updated directory. These calls are being forwarded to our staff who are working remotely- if they are on another call or unable to answer please leave a voicemail and provide as much information as possible, including a good call back number and/or email address to reach you. Please feel free to email us for the quickest return time.

Applicants or Program Inquiries: [email protected]

Existing Habitat Homeowners: [email protected] or [email protected]