Need a home? Habitat is building again

Local non-profit seeks a family that can manage a modest mortgage

HUDSON–Habitat for Humanity announced this week a July 31 application deadline for the second house it plans to build this summer on 444-446 Columbia Street in Hudson. The deadline matters because while the organization is ready to start work on its latest project it’s still missing a key ingredient: a family to live there.

The two attached town houses, designed by architect William Bateman in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity, represent the 10th and 11th homes built by the organization in Columbia County.

To be eligible for the habitat house that comes with a zero interest mortgage, applicants must fit a certain profile, earning below $37,100 for a family of four, but with enough income to make mortgage, tax, and insurance payments that amount to around $700 per month. That’s a bargain when you consider what one gets for that price: a new, 3-bedroom townhouse, with one-and-a-half baths, a yard and off-street parking. The mortgage is interest free and Habitat, which is non-profit, is the lender.

Families must prove that they need more adequate housing that they currently occupy and are required to contribute at least 300 hours in sweat equity to the building process, personally or through the work of family members and friends. Families must also have lived in Columbia County for a year or more and must attend all sessions of a Habitat homeowner training course that covers money management and budgeting, mortgages and financial fitness, home maintenance and safety, and community involvement and engagement.

Applications may be down because of the flat economy, said Georgene Gardner Chairwoman of the Family Selection Committee of the Columbia County Chapter of Habitat for Humanity, the 34-year-old, non-denominational Christian organization that creates affordable housing through building and rehabs for low income families.

“The face of affordable housing has changed in recent years. What it takes to survive has changed,” said Ms. Gardner. “School teachers, firefighters, and bank tellers will qualify for this. This is housing for working families,” she said.

“It’s worth a try,” said Kia Walker, who has lived at her Mill Street Habitat home since 2005. She and her husband, Larry Walker, who both had jobs but couldn’t quite afford a standard mortgage, were not sure if they would qualify, but went ahead and filed an application. They and their three children now live at the end of a wooded, dead end road near parkland in Hudson, having moved from a home right across the street from Columbia Memorial Hospital’s emergency room.

“It was well worth it. We’ve been so blessed,” said Ms. Walker.

She described the building process as fun and well organized. “We had a lot of help, and finished ahead of schedule.” In the process they met people and gained new skills.

The application process is not that difficult, said Jane Weaver, who has lived in her four-bedroom Habitat for Humanity home in Copake with her husband and 7 children for the past 10 years. Before they applied the large family had been living and home schooling their children in a 12-by-17-foot trailer.

On moving day, Ms. Weaver said they worried when they couldn’t find their two daughters. The girls, who had slept in the living room of the trailer, had disappeared into their own room in the new house to enjoy it. She said her children felt more freedom to have friends over and had more space to study independently and successfully. Each child now has room for his or her own desk and computer. One daughter, now studying fashion design at SUNY Oneonta, had room to set up her sewing machine. The other daughter is in medical school.

Now their yard is a gathering place for neighborhood kids, who come to play baseball, volleyball and other sports.

Ms. Weaver’s advice for anyone wondering whether to apply to Habitat for Humanity: “Don’t hesitate. Go ahead and do it; you’ve got nothing to lose.”

For more information call Brenda Adams or Georgene Gardner at Columbia County Habitat for Humanity, (518) 828-0892 or visit www.columbiacountyhabitat.org to download an application.

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