Hometown Habitat News

Wildwood family thankful for Habitat for Humanity refurbishing effort

Wildwood homeowners Mary and Raymond Scott say they’re thankful for the effort to refurbish their home.

In very short order, Raymond and Mary Scott’s home in Wildwood will be sporting a new coat of paint on the exterior, improved landscaping and a new window unit that runs both air conditioning and heat. That’s all thanks to Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program and the large team of volunteers who showed up to do the work.

“Not everyone is aware that refurbishing homes is also part of our program, not just building new homes,” said Habitat for Humanity site supervisor Travis Wofford. “Last year we refurbished 50 homes in Lake and Sumter counties.”

A large contingent of the volunteers came from the Amigos Sports Club in The Villages.

“We’ve been around for 10 years” said Amigos Sports Club founder and president David Lindsey. “We gather to do charitable work and also party once a month.”

The club has grown and currently has a waiting list of more than a hundred people on it. Among the group’s many charitable projects is their work for Habitat for Humanity, which they have done for several years. Lindsey said that his chief duty on this project, in addition to rounding up enough volunteers, was to make sure he brought the doughnuts.

Qualifications for the Preservation and Repair program are based on income and home ownership. The Scott’s are retired and have lived in their home for 21 years. Mary retired after 30 years in custodial services with the school board. While she was driving one day, she saw a Habitat truck and a house being painted. She got out and asked questions and started the application process.

“I feel God sent me that way on that day,” she said. “This means the world to me.”

She was excited to pick out new colors for her exterior. “I wanted something brighter than the brown we had always had,” Mary said.

She decided to go with light gray and a darker gray for the trim.

“Travis helped me with the shades of the colors,” Mary said. “The thing I am most excited about is the new window unit,” she added, pointing out that the one they had “didn’t work very well and didn’t have heat.”

Click here for the full article and more photos!

Affordable Housing Part 1: The A, B, C’s

A is for Affordable…

“Can we afford it?”

This is one of the first questions any renter or home buyer should be asking. But what, exactly, does ‘affordable’ mean? What’s affordable to you might not be to me. Is this just a philosophy about how to handle money or is this something more concrete and measurable?

It’s actually very straight-forward. The term ‘affordable housing’ means that the household spends no more than 30% of their total household income on rent plus utilities.

Why?

Because households need money left over to pay for things like food, transportation, and healthcare—known as non-discretionary spending (these are ‘needs’ not ‘wants’).

“Housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of household income have historically been viewed as an indicator of a housing affordability problem. The conventional 30 percent of household income that a household can devote to housing costs before the household is said to be “burdened” evolved from the United States National Housing Act of 1937” (1).

The Housing Act created the nation’s public housing program to serve families with the very lowest incomes. Since then, a variety of definitions were used to establish what was considered ‘affordable’ for public housing rents. By 1981, the 30% benchmark was put into place and has remained the standard.

This benchmark eventually became part of the home-buying process when lenders began using it as part of their evaluation of a buyer’s ability to repay the loan, especially if the borrower had other debts to pay. However, in mortgage-lending land, “rent plus utilities” was replaced by the PITI factor: this is the combined total of the loan’s Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance.  “Through the mid 1990s, underwriting standards reflected the lender’s perception of loan risk. That is, a household could afford to spend nearly 30 percent of income for servicing housing debt and another 12 percent to service consumer debt. Above these thresholds, a household could not afford the home” and the lender wouldn’t take the risk of the buyer defaulting (1).

This benchmark helps families and landlords or lenders objectively gauge the household’s ability to handle the financial burden of the monthly housing payment. Whether it’s a rental or a purchase, then, it’s a very helpful tool and one we’ll come back to later in this series. The big question now is: based on this definition of ‘affordable’ what are my options if I can’t find a place I can afford?

If that’s the case, then it’s time to look at the variety of programs in place to help make housing affordable, whether it’s a rental or a home purchase. We’ll look at some of those next time and also consider why affordable housing is important…not just for a family but also for the entire community.

 

Your turn: Calculate what percent of your household income is used to pay for your housing (rent + utilities, or mortgage PITI). Next, ask others you know to do the same. Consider asking employees, young singles or marrieds, etc. Discuss how your and their situations would look if 50% or more of your total household income went to pay for housing. What other expenses would be affected?

 

(1): https://www.census.gov/housing/census/publications/who-can-afford.pdf

National Home Builders Association-Best in America

As one of the top 10 homebuilders in the country, Habitat for Humanity is not new to the construction world. What differentiates us here at Habitat Lake Sumter is the ways in which we adapt to the evolving needs of the community and take advantage of unique opportunities to do so. One of the ways we accomplished that was through the building of the Veterans Village in Umatilla, and the project was novel enough to catch the eye of the National Association of Homebuilders. Check out the full article here!

Sponsor of the Month – CVS

Community Collaboration

Partnering with local businesses, civic groups, and more has always been crucial to building Habitat’s ability to, well, build. Without a reliable network of volunteers and donors, our mission would be dead in the water, and the dream of safe, affordable housing would remain just that for so many people. As part of our growing network, we’ve teamed up with CVS Pharmacy to reach some families in need in the Wildwood area! CVS will be sponsoring three days of work through our Preservation and Repair program, which helps people remain in their homes while ensuring safety and accessibility needs are met, at no cost to the homeowner.

What We’re Doing

The Preservation and Repair program is vital to helping us make the most of the existing affordable housing stock and allowing people to remain in the homes they already own. The work involved can run anywhere from simple clearing of debris to replacing windows and doors or, often times, installing an accessibility ramp to allow easier access to their home. These projects, while often low difficulty for us, many times mean the world for those we serve, and the program has grown quickly in the last couple years. Here’s the details on this upcoming partnership project:

Date: September 18, 19, 20
Time: 8AM – 1PM
Location: 5175 CR 144, Wildwood, FL 34785 and 308 Jackson St., Wildwood, FL 34785

We need volunteers! To get involved, please contact Carlos at 352-483-0434 x119 or carlos@habitatls.org.

About CVS

CVS Pharmacy is a proud partner with Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter. As a company, they always lead with heart and their mission is to help people on their path to better health in all aspects of life.  CVS recognizes the importance of Habitat for Humanity’s mission to build homes and and helping make our community as healthy as we can.

They are also excited to introduce a WALK-IN hearing center in your community. Within the CVS Pharmacy store in The Villages on E. County Rd 466, the Hearing Aid Center is offering WALK-IN hearing exams, over the counter hearing aids, and FREE fittings & cleanings. Stop by today and HEAR what they’re all about, ask questions, or get any existing hearing products serviced. The Hearing Aid Center is located in the CVS Pharmacy at 5208 E County Rd 466 at the corner of Belvedere Blvd and open Tuesday – Friday (10am – 5pm) and Saturday (10am – 3pm).

Taking the classroom outside, students learn to build homes

 

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Lake County high school students learn how to build homes

Students who are part of the inaugural senior class of the Youth Construction Academy, a new program Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter, are learning how to build homes. (Sarah Panko, staff)

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Some Lake County high school students are not only getting an education, but also learning how to build homes.

  • 10 students are part of Youth Construction Academy by Habitat for Humanity
  • Students first learn the skils and tools in the classroom
  • Then they take those lessons and apply them into building a house

Knowlen Kirkland is an 18-year-old senior at The Villages Charter High School. He says he wants to study construction management in college.

“My Grandpa was a shop teacher, my Dad and me remodeled my entire house and I enjoyed it all,” he said.

Kirkland is one of 10 students who are part of the inaugural senior class of the Youth Construction Academy, a new program Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter started last year.

Barry Martin, construction manager for Habitat, is supervising the students as they build a three-bedroom, two-bath house in Lady Lake.

Click here for the full article!

Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter builds homes for veterans, active military members

Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter built affordable homes for veterans, active military called ‘Veterans Village.’ (Sarah Panko, staff)

UMATILLA, Fla. — Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter is done building homes in a Lake County neighborhood.

  • Habitat for Humanity builds homes for ‘Veterans Village’
  • Affordable homes meant for veterans, active military

The 13 affordable homes are for veterans, activity military and spouses of those who have served.

It’s called the Veterans Village and it’s located in Umatilla.

Shawn Unger moved into the development at the end of June.

“(I) wanted to get out of the apartment living and into a home. I do have two small children in the house, so a little more wholesome living than that of the apartment,” said Unger.

Unger says he went into the Air Force when he was 17 years old after graduating from high school.

“My parents had to give me permission to do so and sign a form, and then I reported to Lackland Air Force base in 1985,” he said.

Unger’s house is one of 13 Habitat for Humanity of Lake-Sumter started building in 2016.

Click here for the full article!

Family. Friends. Flamingos.

The Light
by Lee Owen

Some say there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Some say it’s probably a train.

But not Priscilla. She’d just smile and say no, not a train. Something entirely unexpected and perfectly poignant. Something that includes you, dear reader.

After being laid off in 2009, Priscilla focused on education to improve her long term job prospects: an AS in Building Construction Technologies, a BAS in Supervision and Administration at UCF, and an AS in Drafting and Design. She graduated Suma Cum Laude, with Honors for highest GPA. Her mentor encouraged her to pursue her Master’s degree. All the while, she was working part time and driving an hour each way to help with her elderly mother’s medical appointments.

And then a tunnel named Alzheimer’s made its all-consuming debut. With no extended family in the region, the next step was obvious: she withdrew from the Master’s program, then left her job to become her mother’s fulltime caregiver. She even tried working from home but her mother’s needs made it impossible.

That was in 2014. By the time her mother was approved for Medicaid help in 2016, she and her savings were exhausted, credit cards were maxed out, and she’d sold every major item she could to help with the expenses. With all that going on, there wasn’t time, money, or energy left to keep the home in good repair. Then one day a friend told her about Habitat for Humanity’s Preservation and Repair Program.

Priscilla called Habitat and began the application process. She shares that the staff’s compassion and attention to detail were a great encouragement.  Habitat’s site supervisor helped the volunteers and sub-contractors understand her mother’s needs.  They performed their duties with gentleness, caution, and overall excellence.

“Never once was I made to feel I was ‘less’ because I was in need, or that I wasn’t worthy,” Priscilla says. “How the Preservation and Repair staff do business should be the benchmark for all other organizations that profess missions to help those in need.”

Her days of wondering if there’d ever be a light at the end of the tunnel are over. Habitat’s volunteers and sub-contractors made interior accessibility modifications, painted the house, tore down a rotting shed, removed dead trees, hung a “Welcome” flag, gave new life to the flower beds, and added a bird bath. Outside their living room window, a new light is shining. And no, it’s not a train. It’s one that Habitat’s Preservation and Repair team chose especially for this yard: a solar-powered flamingo light.

And how are you, dear reader, a part of this? Your support—by reading our newsletters, telling others, volunteering, and donating—has enabled us to reach more families who need a light at the end of their own tunnels. And the entirely unexpected, perfectly-poignant moment you helped create? Well…

“Each time my mom comes into and leaves our living room, she looks out the front window for that light.” Priscilla pauses, then smiles. “What all those people didn’t know is that my mom loves flamingos.”

So, keep reading. Keep telling others. Keep sharing what your Home Town Habitat is doing to lighten the lives of those who need a hand up, not a hand out. Together, let’s light up Lake and Sumter Counties!


Also, we’d like to pass along information about the team that Priscilla set up for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s event in honor of her mother. The Walk is on October 6th at Lake Eola in downtown Florida, and if you’d like to support her and the cause you can do so by donating, walking with the team, or both! Information on both can be found here.

Out of Reach: The High Cost of Housing 2018

Every year, the National Low Income Housing Coalition releases a report that discusses the cost of living around the country. With a specific focus on rent/mortgages, the report provides a very detailed look at just how unattainable safe, affordable housing can be for so many people. We’ve included some snapshots of this report below, and the link to the entire article is here.

Across a several-part series through the rest of the year, we’ll be breaking down what this information means for us through the “ABC’s” of the issue: Affordability, Baloney, and Clarity. These articles will seek to empower our community through understanding the problem, knowing the solutions, and being confident to act on them.

Stay tuned to our social media pages as we lead into each new article with some questions for you; the answers, and how you find them, will help you better understand the depth and intricacy of the housing world and the subject matter we’ll be exploring.


Sponsor of the Month: Citizens First Bank

 

Hospitality. Hard Work. Stewardship. Innovation & Creativity. The pillars of Citizens First Bank were put on shining display this year as they sponsored our inaugural Youth Construction Academy class! Recognizing the value of hands-on education for the next generation, our longtime partner decided to invest in the Youth Construction program and help us ensure it gets off to an amazing start. Beginning on August 9th, the house in Lady Lake will be built from the ground up by seniors from The Villages Charter School’s Construction Science program, with guidance from experienced Habitat supervisors and instructors from the school. By the end of their year in May, they will have completed a full build, from concrete to keys, and be invited to participate in the dedication ceremony for the low-income family moving in.

Citizens First Bank was founded in 1991 and is headquartered in The Villages, Florida. Their two branches, one in The Villages and one in Leesburg, provide top-quality service focused on the needs of their area. By providing comprehensive banking resources and personalized experiences to their community, they are able to fully embrace their place as a hometown bank, and share a special relationship with their clients. For more information on the services they offer, check out their website here or give them a call at 352-753-9515 or 800-707-1893.