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- What We Build
Our model is unique. How is it possible to build and rehabilitate houses, and price them affordably, in this very expensive housing market? We do it by welcoming support of all kinds, and by leveraging those contributions. We accept donations of money, materials, land, and labor from individuals, community groups, corporations, and government partners. All of these contributions leverage the investment that our partner families make in the form of sweat equity and mortgage payments. Each new partner family strengthens our larger Habitat family – here in the East Bay and Silicon Valley, we are hundreds of households and tens of thousands of volunteers strong – enabling us to accomplish even more.
To better understand what we do and how, let’s examine the three components of our mission statement in greater detail.
Qualified families, selected on an equal opportunity basis, purchase Habitat homes at affordable prices, through 30-year, no-profit mortgages with no down payment required. To ensure their affordability, the house prices are calculated based on the families’ incomes. The prices are much lower than market value. Selected families must contribute hundreds of hours of labor, or "sweat equity" in the construction of their homes and the enhancement of their neighborhoods. When the homes are complete, the families purchase their houses, move in, and begin making monthly mortgage payments that we reinvest to help fund the construction of future Habitat homes.
Our program offers homeownership opportunities to families who would not have been able to participate in the housing market without assistance. But our program is not a give-away; Habitat is a "hand up," and not a "hand out."
Our staff and homeowners, despite their enthusiasm and hardiness, can’t do it alone. So we ask the community for help, and thousands of volunteers step forward. In our history, tens of thousands of volunteers have joined us on the construction site to build homes alongside the partner families. Many volunteers bring previous construction experience, but most arrive without existing skills, instead offering their willingness to learn and work hard. Our staff, AmeriCorps members, and some long-time volunteers, provide the training, supervision, and direction needed to get the job done.
Within the safety and security of their new homes, Habitat families have the opportunity to create a stable base from which their children can flourish as the next generation of Bay Area residents. Our program is designed to break the cycle of poverty, and the accomplishment of that is the ultimate expression of sustainability. To achieve this, we design all aspects of our program with a focus on sustainability.
Our building methods are sustainable because, as a green builder, we make responsible use of land and materials, conserving these resources for future building endeavors. In doing so, we do our part to prolong the environmental health of our community and the well-being of our homeowners and volunteers so that we can continue to build, and our partner families will continue to thrive, for many years to come.
The homes are physically sustainable because the partner families have learned construction skills and are prepared with the abilities needed to upkeep their homes. And of course, the homes have been built to exceed rigorous standards. They are designed and constructed to be long-lasting and durable. A testament to the quality of Habitat homes came in 1989 when Hurricane Hugo ravaged South Carolina; all Habitat homes in the state survived the storm.
Habitat families’ homeownership is sustainable because the families have received training in financial literacy and management, and in other aspects of owning a home, prior to becoming owners. We continue to provide ongoing support after the families have moved in, and we work with families who are experiencing difficulty making their mortgage payments. In stark contrast to other homeowners, Habitat homeowners experience very few foreclosures, nationwide and here in the Bay Area. We are committed to not just creating, but to preserving homeownership as well.
The Habitat developments and larger surrounding neighborhoods become sustainable because the training we offer extends beyond owning a home. We provide training in leadership development, conflict resolution, and communication, so that the homeowners are prepared for the challenges of managing a homeowners association and organizing their neighbors to tackle other community improvements. We identify emerging leaders and nurture their development, helping them acquire the tools they’ll need to make the changes they wish to see in their lives and neighborhoods.
Finally, the opportunities we create are sustainable because our houses are preserved as affordable housing for the long-term, even if ownership of the houses changes hands. Our homes are sold with deed restrictions which are intended to promote long-term affordability and prevent financial windfall to homeowners. Habitat homes are intended to serve as an owner’s residence and not a means for profit. All of our homes have resale restrictions in place, although the specifics vary by city and for renovated homes. Many restrictions expire after a prescribed time period, while others are enforced in perpetuity – that is, forever. Homeowners may sell their homes during the restricted time period, but they must offer to sell the property back to us prior to attempting to sell the property to an eligible third party. If we do not elect to purchase the property, then the homeowner may attempt to sell the property to an eligible first time homebuyer who meets income requirements. The sales price during this period will be restricted to an affordable price, based on the original sale price.
Our successful and lengthy tenure in the Bay Area is testament to the achievement of our goals and the sustainability of our plan.
Many of our Bay Area neighborhoods are suffering. They offer too few affordable housing opportunities, and those that exist do not offer safety and security. Many of our neighborhoods are deteriorating from blight, which can result when residents lack the resources, partnerships, and personal investment needed to foster thriving communities.
Our model for neighborhood revitalization involves facilitating the creation of partnerships in the community. Through strategic collaborations with community residents, local government, and other community organizations, we are able to leverage our housing solutions to create tangible impacts in a more comprehensive way. The realities of the recent housing crisis have guided us toward new housing solutions. In order to address the diverse needs in the communities that were hit hardest by foreclosure, we added more tools to our toolbox. Through our Neighborhood Stabilization Program, we now have the right tools for the job; our housing solutions now consist of new home construction, home renovation, and home repair.
The most versatile and effective tool in our toolbox is the partner families themselves. Habitat East Bay/Silicon Valley has undertaken projects ranging in size from one to 54 houses. Imagine the difference that 54 invested, motivated, and hard-working homeowners can make in a neighborhood.
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