For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to see what Habitat for Humanity was all about. I mean seriously, they’re just giving away houses? While we were in Cincinnati, I finally got that chance to participate in the action.
Now I have to tell you that as much as I’ve wanted to spend a day putting hammer to nail (or at least attempting said feat as America’s Least Handiest Male) I have always wondered how Habitat really worked.
However, after spending a day on the job in Cincy asking some of my trademark former financial planner extraordinaire questions, I am now a big believer in the mission that Millard and Linda Fuller set into motion back in 1976. Their goal then, as it is today, is based upon the concept of “partnership housing”. And this partnership runs a lot deeper than you might think.
Habitat partners with a family by not just giving them the keys to a new house, but rather helping them build a strong foundation on so many critical levels. Each family must invest a certain number of “sweat equity” hours (typically between 200-300) into the building of their home or a neighboring Habitat home. This sweat equity seems a bit intimidating to someone like yours truly who will never even begin to comprehend how in the world a towel bar can extend from a bathroom wall and day after day defy gravity without a single visible nail or screw.
With that said, I can certainly appreciate Habitat’s use of an alternative form of up-front equity from their partners. And it has proven to give Habitat homeowners a deeper level of knowledge so they can continue maintenance of their home for years beyond the celebrated move-in day. As a side note, I wish I had some of this knowledge for our former homes and presently for our Airstream camper….
Oh yeah, and back to that whole “free house” thing. That’s not actually how it works. Habitat provides interest free loans to their families, which are paid off over a given number of years, just like everyone else who has a mortgage.
Habitat’s underlying purpose can be summed up in a quote from their founder who said, “What the poor need is not charity but capital, not case workers but co-workers”. Isn’t that what we all need – peer support and true community?
This experience has encouraged us to learn more about community-led housing.
A few of you may have read the article on the Cass Community Tiny Homes in Detroit that went viral over the summer. We’re curious if any of you have participated in community-led housing programs. Please share your experience with us in the comments below or by email.
Be Well Friends.