Monday, February 26, 2001
Steamboat Springs The directors of Habitat for Humanity haven't even broken ground on their first-ever house, and already they are seeking a second family in need of a new home.
Gil Lang, chairman of the Family Selection Committee, said the board wants to select the second family in time for its members to put in the required 350 hours of sweat equity on the first home.
Lang said Habitat expects to break ground on its first house in Pioneer Village for the Beverly and Neil Marchman family by sometime in May or June. The application process for selecting a second family begins this week.
"We're going to start taking applications March 1 and continue until March 30," Lang said. "Then the board will select another family."
Habitat for Humanity families receive interest-free loans that greatly reduce the size of monthly payments they need to afford their own home. The house is built with volunteered labor and materials.
Lang is a mortgage lending officer at Vectra Bank Colorado in Steamboat Springs. He said he was attracted to Habitat for Humanity when he moved here from New Jersey in October 1999 because it represents a chance to use his professional background to help local families.
"Most of these families could afford a home if they could just get a step up, a little oomph, a little push," Lang said.
There are two key things for families wondering if they will qualify for a Habitat home to consider right off the top, Lang said. First, they must have been Routt County residents for at least 12 months. Second, there is a maximum household income families may earn and still be eligible. That maximum varies with Steamboat's current median income and the size of the family. During the original selection process, that maximum household income for a family of four was $31,000.
Pastor Larry Oman is president of the Habitat Board. He said Habitat's goal is to provide home ownership for a family that wouldn't otherwise be able to realize that dream.
"It is designed as an opportunity for families who just think they'll never be able to move from a rental situation to home ownership to get them over that hump so they can own their first home," Oman said.
Oman pointed out that Habitat homes are deed restricted to ensure they remain affordable in the case of a change of ownership. But they also afford an opportunity for the family living in the home to see its equity grow. Habitat retains a right of first refusal in the event of a sale and the homeowners are allowed a 3-percent annual increase in equity based upon the payments they make. Should they live in the home for 30 years, they would be free to sell it at the market rate.
Habitat received more than 30 applications for its first home. Lang said once the applications for the second home are received, he will begin reviewing them to determine whether in fact the families are eligible.
Once that task is complete, his committee will begin making personal visits to learn more about the families. Lang said the committee will gather information about the livability of their current home. They'll be looking to see if the existing home is reasonably energy efficient and how crowded it is for the size of the family. Just as it is on the open market, the credit history of the families is important.
Lang said the list of applicants being considered will be reduced to 10 and then finally to five families whose cases will be presented to the 14 board members.
The families will be identified by file number only, so that among the board members, only Lang will know their identities.
Typically, Lang said, the amount loaned to a Habitat family is less than $100,000. For purposes of an example only, Lang said, a family borrowing $100,000 at a market interest rate of 7.5 percent would be facing a monthly mortgage payment of about $700. A hypothetical Habitat family with a no interest loan would have monthly payments of $278 for the same $100,000 loan.
If 350 hours of sweat equity sounds daunting, Penny Lucas, family support person for Habitat, pointed out that the families can rely on extended family and friends for up to 40 percent of the sweat equity hours. But the nuclear family itself must supply 60 percent of that labor.
People interested in receiving a Habitat for Humanity application by mail may contact Lang at 870-4230.