Monday, August 15, 2022

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s holding info session on Wednesday

Habitat for Humanity is currently accepting applications for its home ownership program in New Hanover and Pender county.

Wall Raising on Feb. 3 for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s first Burgaw homeowner. (Port City Daily file photo/COURTESY CAPE FEAR HABITAT FOR HUMANITY)
Wall Raising on Feb. 3 for Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity’s first Burgaw homeowner. (Port City Daily file photo/COURTESY CAPE FEAR HABITAT FOR HUMANITY)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity is accepting applications for its home ownership program.

Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity is a local branch of a national organization that focuses on helping families move toward the purchase of a home. Habitat for Humanity does not give away houses, instead, Habitat provides zero-interest loans and has strict requirements for applicants.

”On average, we aim to build about 12 to 14 houses for New Hanover and Pender counties every year,” said Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity executive director Steve Spain. “We also rehab another two to four houses. Each year we’re trying to raise that number, depending on whether or not we’re able to find affordable land we can build on.”

Habitat has also been a part of the growing effort to increase options for affordable housing in Southeastern North Carolina.

Last year, Habitat announced intentions to move forward with plans for a new 27-home development off Gordon Road in Wilmington.

Strict application requirements

Applicants for the home ownership program take about a year and half to complete the system, which includes the application process, volunteer hours and the home ownership course.

The current application cycle will likely place candidates in the development on Gordon Road or another one of the Habitat properties scattered throughout New Hanover or Pender County.

Home ownership applicants must be able to demonstrate a need for adequate housing, which means they must currently live in overcrowded or unsafe conditions, subsidized housing, substandard housing or homeless, have housing expenses greater than 30 percent of income or are unable to get a home loan from any source.

“Habitat’s mission is to help people become homeowners who are on the cusp; those that have reliable income and are capable of making monthly payments, but may have difficulty getting assistance from the bank.”

Habitat for Humanity partner families must earn between 30 to 80 percent of the area’s median income, with a target of 60 percent or below. This figure may be adjusted based on family size and county.

“Odds are, if you’re making the area median income, you can find a bank loan,” said Spain. “Habitat’s mission is to help people become homeowners who are on the cusp; those that have reliable income and are capable of making monthly payments, but may have difficulty getting assistance from the bank.”

Habitat focuses on ensuring homeowners do not spend more than 30 percent of their gross income on housing, which is the figure the Housing and Urban Development and the City of Wilmington both use to define affordable housing.

“Our average homes are appraised at $125,000, which is the price that Habitat participants pay, but with zero interest,” said Spain. “We also sometimes work with homeowners to get U.S. Department of Agriculture loans, which have an interest rate but they are almost always below market. The average monthly mortgage, insurance and tax payment for a Habitat for Humanity home is approximately $650.”

Investing with sweat equity

Applicants also must be willing to partner with Habitat by investing sweat equity, or the contribution to the home building process with effort and toil.

About two dozen volunteers, including Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and several professional construction crewmen, helped put the walls up at a previous Habitat for Humanity build. (Port City Daily photo/BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)
About two dozen volunteers, including Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo and several professional construction crewmen, helped put the walls up at a previous Habitat for Humanity build. (Port City Daily photo/BENJAMIN SCHACHTMAN)

For a two-adult family the minimum is 400 hours of sweat equity and for a single-adult family the minimum is 250 hours.

Habitat uses sweat equity as a means to give those without access to large amounts of financial capital the opportunity to invest in their new home.

Spain notes that Habitat homeowners are usually highly invested in the process because these homes not only benefit their immediate future, but often become assets that their children will be able to benefit from years down the line.

“Building generational wealth in communities that otherwise are unable is the real long-term solution Habitat is trying to provide,” said Spain. “Purely in equity, Habitat homeowners have helped create $5 million in wealth for African-American and uniformly low-income or under resourced areas. Every year, that number increases by about $400,000.”

The Cape Fear Habitat for Humanity home ownership informational sessions are on Wednesday, March 7 at 9 a.m. and Wednesday, March 21 at 9 a.m.

For those seeking more information, visit their website at capefearhabitat.org, call 910-762-4744 extension 114 or email amy@capefearhabitat.org.


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