Sunday, June 16, 2024

Habitat for Humanity Applications Climb as Affordable Housing Remains a Challenge

(Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg)

NEWPORT NEWS — Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg received 250 applications from prospective homebuyers a year ago — the most in its history and nearly double from 2021.

In 2023, that number soared to 282 applications, largely from families in need of affordable housing in a region where finding the land to build homes remains challenging, it said.

“There’s an incredible need out there,” said Janet V. Green, CEO of the local affiliate of the international nonprofit. “As we tend to see with housing, when the mortgage rates are high, everybody is searching for affordable housing and that puts significant strain on low- to moderate-income families. Because, quite frankly, moderate- to higher-income families scoop up whatever affordable places there may be first.”

Habitat partners with families to build or renovate homes in its service area, which extends from the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel to New Kent County.

Families must agree to make on-time monthly mortgage payments to Habitat, offered at zero interest for up to 30 years. Those payments are cycled back into the community so more homes can be built. Families also must agree to complete at least 300 sweat-equity hours, working on their homes, other Habitat homes under construction and at the Habitat ReStores.

The demand for affordable housing currently exceeds Habitat’s capacity, it noted. The affiliate currently has 10 homes under construction for families who have been selected and is committed to partnering with six new families.

“We strive to build 10 a year,” Green said. “We can only build on land we have available, and we need to have more land so we can get back up to 10.”

Habitat said it is open to exploring all options to obtain land, including acquiring larger parcels that need to be subdivided, accepting estate planning gifts and handling all the necessary legwork.

“It doesn’t have to be undeveloped land,” Green said. “If there’s a house on it, we can renovate that house.”

Volunteers at crew members of Habitat for Humanity at a build site in Williamsburg Thursday October 16, 2020.

Increasing community support is also essential to fulfill Habitat’s mission. The affiliate operates ReStores in Newport News, Williamsburg and Yorktown. All of the ReStores need more donations. Pickup is free, and all proceeds from ReStore sales are donated to building Habitat homes in this service area. Volunteers for the ReStores, home builds and repairs are always needed, it said.

Vehicles — everything from cars to trucks or boats and construction/farm equipment (even if they aren’t operable) — can also be donated, and monetary donations are always appreciated. According to the nonprofit, a donation of $20 buys a box of nails, and every donation of $104 contributes to one square foot of a Habitat home.

Community partners and businesses can make a major impact by sponsoring a Habitat house, and those interested can reach out to Green at janet@habitatpgw.org to sponsor a home or donate land.

“Our hearts are heavy because we’d love to put ourselves out of business because that would mean everyone has affordable housing and our mission wouldn’t need to exist anymore,” Green said. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case. We know there’s a credible need, and we need everybody to help us fill that need.”

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