Hometown Habitat News

Seeking Applicants for Homeownership Program

Pack it or Pitch it? Tips to Decluttering Your Home After the Holidays

Are you dreading the day the holiday decorations come down? Sorting, stacking and stuffing everything back into storage. A perennial puzzle requiring the virtue of patience needed to ensure everything fits back into a finite amount of space. Perhaps now’s the time to destress by decluttering; letting go of those things that no longer have a place in your space.

Here are a few tips to help you identify the items you can remove without remorse:

Time is not on its side.

Start by evaluating items that make less of an appearance than those annual adornments your packing away. We’re not saying you should toss out precious family heirlooms, but if it’s an everyday object, not worthy of every-year consideration, then it’s likely something you can let go.

Your D.I.Y. is D.O.N.E.

If your Pinterest projects have taken a back seat to more interesting pursuits, it’s probably time pass along the tools of the trade.

Soccer Mom (or Dad) no more.

Suburban garages overflow with memories of glory days. If your tiny tots have outgrown their love of lacrosse, then pick up sticks and pass them along to the next generation. If you’ve outsourced your outdoor maintenance, then the same rule applies to your lawn equipment.

One (or more) of these things does not belong.

So, you have a few great pieces of furniture or art that just don’t fit your new décor or sense of style. Upgrade your look with a “less-is-more” feel and ditch the distractions.

Everything in its place.

Put everything away in your house, then evaluate those things that have no place in your home or your life. If they don’t make either better, it may not be worth finding somewhere to stash them.

You’ll undoubtedly come across a number of things you can do without. You’ll probably even find a few items that you’ll actually be better off without.  Before you dump them on the curb, consider donating items that are in good condition to one of our four local Re-Store locations. Your decluttering donations will help make countless lives better, including your own.

Academy Students Get Hands On

Surviving Hurricane, Habitat Houses Offer Lessons

A Fresh Outlook

At 8 AM on a quaint little street in Yalaha, there was already a block party happening.  This wasn’t your traditional type of party, however; it was remarkably different. Alongside Habitat for Humanity staff, volunteers were prepared with paintbrushes, hammers, screwdrivers, and a determination to transform not one, but three homes in the neighborhood.

The grateful homeowners – Mary Bedford, Sylvia Session, and Latasha Williams – stood by anxiously as work got underway and met the strangers who donated their time to helping them out. As any gracious host would do, Mary ensured there was plenty of parking for the volunteers, while Sylvia and Latasha joined to meet and greet their guests with smiles.

The homes in need of repair or restoration had proximity in common, but the homeowners each had their individual stories to share.  Mary Bedford had recently lost her husband, and was still dealing with not just the emotional burden but also by the financial burden of trying to pay off his funeral service.  Her home was in need of attention; there were piles of debris that needed to be hauled off, but in the midst of losing her loved one, it seemed impossible. Even so, Mary wasn’t the type to sit back and watch. She rolled up her sleeves and, side by side with the volunteers, she got to work. Volunteers called her genuine and kind, and she thought the same of them.

Sylvia Session had recently experienced respiratory failure and become unresponsive in her living room causing her to now be dependent on an oxygen tank.  Upon their arrival, paramedics had no choice but to ram down her door in order to save her.  During the project assessment, Habitat knew that a new front door would be on the top of the list, along with a repair on her AC unit. The unit’s fan was continuously running but not cooling, resulting in a sweltering hot home and a 900-dollar electric bill for the month. While Sylvia had only expected for Habitat to pressure wash her home, she was elated with the new paint job and other repairs. The volunteers, she said, were full of compassion, and went over and above what she had ever imagined. “I don’t know how to say thank you,” she said, choking back tears. “I can say it a million times but it isn’t enough. Everything that’s been done, they are little things to you, but they are big things to me.”

Latasha Williams’ husband works long hours in construction to provide for their family and to take care of their 3-year-old son. They had started to work on fencing their yard in but were unable to finish due to time and financial restraints. They were reluctant to put any of their son’s toys in the yard as they felt the space wasn’t secure enough without the fence. Habitat and the volunteers made sure that they completed the fence so that the family was able to enjoy the outdoors without worry. Besides playing outside, Latasha’s son has other plans for the fenced in yard. He wants either a dinosaur or a dog, and if he gets the dinosaur, it has to be a T-Rex.

The homeowners all feel very fortunate for having this experience with Habitat for Humanity. They say it has made a drastic change in their lives to have the homes clean, painted, and repaired. Along with a sense of solidarity, the projects have spread inspiration throughout the neighborhood; other nearby residents have inquired about the application process for Habitat for Humanity and are also working on cleaning and updating their homes in order to better the community.

 

By Lauren Lester

Affordable Housing Part 4: B is for Baloney: The Myth-ing Information Problem

B is for Baloney: The Myth-ing Information Problem

 

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when a young couple talks about finding affordable housing? What about when a politician talks about it? Or a non-profit?

Lots of myths and mis-information about affordable housing affect our understanding of it. Here are some of the highlights from a Community Housing Partners fact sheet, Affordable Housing Facts . (Similar sources are linked at the end of this article.)

 

  1. It’s ugly: In the past, this was probably true, but the laws have changed. Affordable housing has to fit the community character in size and style, and it has to meet the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. If government funding is involved, then construction might have even more restrictions or higher standards. What makes it ‘affordable’ is the financing of the construction and/or the mortgage.
  2. It increases crime: According the CHP fact sheet, “There is no correlation between safe, decent and affordable housing and crime. Studies show that what does cause crime (and a host of other socio-economic ills) is community disinvestment, overcrowding, and a lack of jobs and community services. Failure to build affordable housing leads to slum conditions of overcrowding, absentee owners and deteriorating properties with no alternatives available to low-income families…Careful screening, proper management, and security measures help assure that illegal activities do not take place and that, if they do, they are dealt with swiftly and decisively. Most affordable housing residents want nothing more than to become part of the quiet, peaceful life of the surrounding community. They have sought out affordable housing so that they can live independent, self-sufficient lives.”
  3. It isn’t an asset to the community: The opposite is true. Affordable housing “enables low-paid workers and others to avoid homelessness…avoid the need for public benefits…enables individuals to stabilize their lives so they can pursue jobs, access needed services, and deal effectively with any problems they may have…Availability of affordable housing enables the city to attract and to retain employers who require affordable housing for their lower level employees…also reduces the stress on other government-provided social services.”

 

Other sources note another common myth: “I don’t know anyone who needs affordable housing.” Actually, you probably know at least one and maybe even several. Let’s go back to the definition of ‘affordable,’ which is that no more than 30% of gross household income is spent on rent/utilities or, in the case of home ownership, PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).

Look at the chart below; if you’re earning $10 per hour, on a 40 hour week, a 4 week month, an affordable rent or mortgage situation would mean paying no more than $480 per month. This is at an annual income of $19,200.  Another way to look at this is to look at the monthly rent column; for example, it’s very common to see a 2 bedroom apartment renting for $1200+ per month. To keep that ‘affordable’ you’d have to be earning $48,000 per year.

Hourly Wage

Weekly gross income @ 40 hours Income working 4 weeks per month Affordable Monthly Housing Expense Annual Income required:

40

4

30%

 $8.25

 $330  $1,320  $396

 $15,840

 $10.00

 $400

 $1,600  $480

 $19,200

 $15.00

 $600  $2,400  $720

 $28,800

 $25.00

 $1,000  $4,000  $1,200

 $48,000

 $30.00  $1,200  $4,800  $1,440

 $57,600

 

Any guesses as to a typical income in your company? Your church? Your community? Do you know what the median hourly wage is for your area? The median rent? Once we look at housing costs from the perspective of hourly or annual income, we learn a few things…and we’d be surprised at who we know or who we’re near who needs affordable housing options.

To better understand this way of looking at the issue, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) calculates what they call “The Housing Wage.” This number illustrates what hourly wage you’d have to earn to afford the typical rent based on where you live. For 2018, Florida has the 16th highest housing wage requirement in the entire country. Any guesses at to what you’d have to earn per hour to afford a typical 2 bedroom rental home in the state? Or if you’re earning minimum wage, how many hours you’d have to work each week to meet that ‘affordable’ number?  I double dog dare you to find out!


Your turn: If you’re up for the double-dog dare, go to the NLIHC site and see what hourly wage is required to afford (pay less than 30% of household income) rent/PITI in various locations. You can even drill down by zip code.

We encourage you to talk about this with everyone you know. Why? Because there’s someone out there who needs this information…and feel free to send them our way if they’re looking for an affordable home to buy in Lake or Sumter Counties. Let’s get the word out about making housing affordable!

And don’t forget to share your discoveries with us on social media.

Facebook     Instagram     Twitter

Additional resources:

https://www.abodo.com/blog/heavy-housing-burden/

https://www.abodo.com/blog/renter-cost-burdens-by-generation/

http://www.shimberg.ufl.edu/publications/FL_2017_RMS_fact_sheet.pdf  (Florida specific info)

Mary & Raymond Scott- Wildwood Repair and Restoration

To a passerby, the group of people at Mary and Raymond Scott’s house may have looked like a gathering of old friends and family. Among the hustle and bustle of a restoration in progress, there was laughter, story telling, and a sense of something special happening in the air.

They weren’t old friends though; they were a group of volunteers that Mary Scott saw outside another house in her Wildwood neighborhood, not too long ago. She noticed the Habitat for Humanity truck, and with her own home needing repairs, she felt drawn to get out and ask for help. Her application was approved, and her own experience with Habitat began. She considers it to be one of her greatest blessings in life.

The night before the restoration, Mary was so excited that she couldn’t sleep. “It was like my birthday and Christmas wrapped up into one,” she says. That following morning, when the volunteers stepped onto her property, she made it her mission to make them all feel welcomed. She greeted each volunteer with handshakes and hugs, taking the time to get to know each one personally. She would ask about their families and share stories about hers. She had cold drinks on hand, and prepared snacks and lunch so nobody would go hungry. “I like to make everyone feel special,” she says. “To me, everybody is somebody.” The gratitude and kindness Mary and Raymond showed ensured that those somebodies were going to pour their hearts into restoring their home for them.

As the house was being repaired and painted, a new AC unit was being installed and landscaping was being selected. If you didn’t know any better, you could have easily mistaken Raymond Scott for a volunteer. If there was a ladder being climbed, Raymond was at the bottom supporting it. When the AC was being installed, he was right there holding it in place. He stirred paint and brought tools, humble and helpful through the whole project.

Their experience with Habitat for Humanity has impacted the Scotts greatly. Not only do they have a fresh coat of paint on their home, but they also have a fresh perspective on life. Mary says she “thanks God every day” for this opportunity, and with her son being sick in the hospital believes that Habitat was sent into her life at a time she needed it the most. “I’ve never had anyone help me like this,” says Mary. “I feel so happy.”

When the project is completed, the volunteers leave but they are not forgotten.  This blessing has brought Mary and Raymond Scott closer together as a couple and they are thankful for that. Every morning they are up early, proudly taking care of their home. Together, they replanted a banana plant gifted to them by a volunteer so that it could get more sun. Neighbors slow down to compliment the colors Mary picked out for the house, and regulars at her church gush about how pretty it is. Their son joked about not recognizing the house at first, and their six-year-old great granddaughter picks up a broom and helps them sweep the “new house.” While this journey has brought the Scott family closer together, their kindness and appreciation has left an unforgettable impression on the volunteers.

I guess you could say that Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just work on homes, they work on hearts, too.

By: Lauren Lester

Affordable Housing Part 3: Affordable Housing Affects All of Us

Maybe you aren’t cost-burdened. You don’t have to decide between paying the light bill or buying food. And neither do your friends or neighbors. Maybe you’re thinking this whole issue of affordable housing doesn’t affect you.

Think again.

A 2014 report by Enterprise Community Partners (here) should make us all pause and reconsider. The lack of affordable housing has measurable impacts on families, communities, and society overall. The report on housing instability, including homelessness, presents their findings by major issues; below is an excerpt of just three of these issues we can all relate to:

• Education — Housing instability/homelessness (HI/H) jeopardizes children’s performance and success in school and contributes to long-lasting achievement gaps. The stress of HI/H makes learning difficult; in addition, it disrupts school attendance, lowering students’ overall academic performance. Long-term academic success is directly impacted by housing stability.

• Health — HI/H has serious negative impacts on the health of children and adults. Problems include asthma, being underweight, developmental delays, and increases the risk of depression, to name a few. Affordable housing provides stability, freeing up resources for nutritious food and health care.

• Neighborhood Quality — The report states that “A number of national and regional studies have found that investments in affordable housing produce benefits in the form of jobs, local income, sales, increased property values and property tax revenues…” and “…Numerous studies show that affordable housing has a neutral or positive effect on surrounding property values…”

Let’s bring this closer to home. In October 2017 the Orlando Sentinel published the results of a study done by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida and Miami Homes for All, a South Florida nonprofit. The research focused on student homelessness; the Sentinel’s article (“Central Florida’s Homeless Students Top 14,000”) can be found here. According to the study, “…only 24 percent to 27 percent of homeless students passed assessment tests, while 40 percent to 48 percent of other students did.” They had higher rates of truancy and suspension, and “Even compared with students who live in poverty but are not homeless, the students whose families stay in shelters, cars, doubled up with another family or in extended-stay hotels fared significantly worse…” The Sentinel quotes Christina Savino, Orange County Public Schools senior administrator for homeless and migrant education: “…that lack of a stable home still really makes a difference.”

The lack of affordable, stable housing eventually ripples through all aspects of the local community and economy. While you might not be cost-burdened based on your income, your larger community, including the central Florida region as a whole, suffers when families are priced out of a stable place to call home.


Your turn: Contact a local food pantry, teacher, community police officer, or health clinic and discuss the issues they see related to housing instability/homelessness. For example, ask the food pantry how hunger affects their clients’ choices on other critical needs; ask a teacher how hunger affects a student’s classroom behavior and academic progress; ask a local police officer how the lack of affordable housing affects crime; ask a health clinic about the impact of delayed medical attention on children and families. Who else might you discuss the topic with? Share your experiences with us!

Growing Needs – Growing Solutions

As many of you know, Habitat Lake-Sumter started our Preservation and Repair program in 2015 to serve homeowners who didn’t want or need a new house, but couldn’t afford to keep their current one in good condition. The program was meant to provide help with the exterior of a home – weatherization, safety, accessibility, and beautification – and we quickly realized how large the need was in our area. Since then, the program has grown rapidly, serving over 50 families last year with the help of specialized funding and a large pool of awesome volunteers.

However, the need is still larger than our ability to meet it, and because of that we’ve continued to explore new ways to help grow our abilities. So many families are in need of more than we usually provide and we’ve decided to seek out ways to provide ‘Critical Home Repair’ services. The newest method to accomplish this is with funding through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Housing Preservation grant program. These funds are meant to help agencies in rural areas to serve homeowners with similar assistance to what we’re already doing, but with more significant backing, allowing us to expand the scope of our projects. We were selected to receive a grant this year and we’re already looking forward to how to implement it. Part of the USDA guidelines are that funds expended are matched, and through a partnership with Bank of America we’re ahead of the game there as well.

Bank of America has regularly partnered with us through the years and they’ve continued to support our efforts as we move ahead into 2019. This will help us reach the matching requirements needed to obtain even larger funding, which means larger projects and larger impact, and that’s what we’re all about. Things like a new roof, interior work like replacing failing floorboards or replacing doorways with handicap-accessible frames, and more come with additional expenses; this new source of funding will help us handle that in stride and continue to provide this work to families in need at no cost to them.

Sometimes these jobs seem like nothing to us, but the impact it can make on a family is huge. Whether they’re a small family that’s been living with a tarped roof for three years, a disabled vet who can barely leave the house due to accessibility issues, or the multi-generational family who has to find towels and buckets during Florida’s storms – one day of our time results in a changed life for them.

If you’d like to get involved with our Preservation & Repair program, we’d love to have you! You can go here to see our volunteer schedule and contact Carlos to get started.

Are you a homeowner who wants to see if you qualify for our Preservation & Repair program?  Contact Veronica  to learn more.

Students experience building firsthand

Kaleb Ward, left, a senior at The Villages High School, and Bruce Haberle, construction management academy instructor, work on the roof trusses on a Habitat for Humanity home under construction Thursday at Winners Circle in Lady Lake.
Bill Mitchell, Daily Sun

A local family soon will have a home with the help of 11 seniors from The Villages High School.

The students are building an 1,100-square-foot house in Lady Lake through the school’s Construction Management Academy’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a housing organization that works with communities across the nation.

On Thursday, the roof trusses were set on the house where the students have worn hard hats and climbed ladders four days a week since the beginning of the school year.

VHS Principal Bill Zwick stood at the construction site to observe and admire their hard work.

“This gives them the total experience of building a house from beginning to end,” Zwick said. “When they graduate, they’ll have this background knowledge. It’s a learning experience that will benefit them no matter where they go in life.”

The students started building the back wall Aug. 16, and their hands will be on the house until the project is complete at the end of the school year. So far, they are on schedule.

The two-year academy launched last year, and this is the first year it has been offered to both juniors and seniors.

The juniors learn the basics of construction and go through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour training, and the seniors put their skills to the test.

“It gives us a good foundation to build a career,” said senior Colby Sharp, 17.

Click here for the full article!