Providing low-income families with an affordable home addresses only part of the issue of poverty; in addition to building houses, Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity works to ensure that our first-time homebuyers become knowledgeable homeowners.
Families that partner must demonstrate that they have a genuine need for decent, safe and affordable housing, that they have the ability to pay a 0% mortgage, and that they are willing to partner with Habitat by committing to 300-500 hours of ‘sweat equity’. Sweat equity hours can be met by working on their home, volunteering on the homes of other Habitat families and attending workshops and education sessions. As a part of their sweat equity, all the adults in our partner families are required to complete over 55 hours of homeowner education.
Habitat for Humanity makes these classes a requirement because we know that education and preparation is the key to self-sufficiency. Of the 55 hours, about 30 hours focus on financial literacy and financial preparedness, including understanding their mortgage, establishing monthly budgets, planning for a financial emergency, etc.
Since our families are mostly first-time homebuyers and are often the first in their extended families to live in their own home, we also conduct classes that help them transition into homeownership. The topics addressed in this track include how to be a good neighbor, community relations, and home maintenance. It is with the help of our family partners, mentors and class facilitators that Habitat can offer such an extensive range of topics to get our families ready for financial stability, and Habitat is blessed to have so many experts in their fields lend their expertise to our families.
Their new yard is often the first time Habitat families have had a yard, and typically aren’t familiar with lawn maintenance or landscaping. Backyard Organics has stepped in to help our Habitat homeowners with getting their new lawns established, and is donating their services for all our 2011 families. The purpose of Backyard Organics is to create a safe environment for families, pets and the planet. Backyard Organics uses safe, earth-friendly methods for weed control, soil conditioners and also offers soil manipulation and testing services. Backyard Organics utilizes the principles set forth by the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA), and was the first organic land care business accredited by NOFA.
For 2011, there are 14 Habitat families, which is an increase from 2010. Greater Fox Cities Area Habitat for Humanity would not be able to increase our ability to provide decent homes in a holistic manner without the generosity and support of our wonderful volunteers and partner businesses like Backyard Organics!