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How Habitat Works

People have asked how people are selected to buy Habitat homes. A committee of volunteers interviews applicants, who must demonstrate need, limited income (based on family size, as defined by the government), a steady job and good credit score, and willingness to "partner" with Habitat (in various ways, including putting in 500 hours of labor on their house - "sweat equity" in lieu of a cash down payment.)

When the house is ready, the new owner purchases it at about 1/2 of the market price, and makes loan payments over 20-30 years at no interest -- i.e., pay back just the principal. To put the houses in the hands of those truly seeking a decent family home and not fast-buck artists, the houses can not be resold during the entire loan period. If the family must leave the area, Habitat will take the house back, and pay the family every dollar they put into it -- but no profit. Habitat spruces up the home, and finds another deserving local family to move in.

Unless out of town, Mike volunteers a day or two each week, and as an electrical engineer, likes to do electrical work on the houses. But many weeks, none is needed, so Mike joins in on other tasks, and has learned to do concrete forming, framing, siding, roofs, sheet rock, windows, kitchen cabinets, doors, and all sorts of trim work. (In fact, he has told Sandy he now could probably build an entire new house for her, but she politely declined the offer.)

Besides actually building the houses, other Habitat functions are done by volunteers as well. Some search for vacant land, or work with city planning departments, or teach classes to help ensure the success of the new homeowners. Still others visit large companies to solicit donations and volunteers, and others are in the office, putting together brochures, the web site, press releases, etc. Habitat also has 4 "thrift shops," called ReStores, where donated building and household materials can be purchased at bargain prices -- staffed by volunteers.