Habitat seeking more potential owners to apply in Champaign County

Habitat seeking more potential owners to apply in Champaign County

URBANA – Two Urbana families will realize their dream of home ownership this summer, and Habitat for Humanity says it's ready to help others – if they would apply.

The Champaign County nonprofit agency has a shortage of partner families for its home-building program, which provides first-time buyers with affordable houses through no-interest mortgages.

The recession and a leadership transition are to blame, said Executive Director Beverly Huffman. She said Habitat's family recruitment shut down for about six months after the departure of former Executive Director Eileen Gebbie last summer. Donations had slowed during the recession, and there was some uncertainty about funding and lots for future homes, she said.

The family selection committee's goal is to get families into a house within a year of starting the process, she said, and it didn't want to "get a lot of people in the queue and not be able to build homes for them."

Habitat finances its own 20-year mortgages, rather than using banks. It typically gets dozens of applicants each month and has always had a high rejection rate – just two or three of every 100 people who fill out an interest form move on to the next step, Stierwalt said.

To be eligible, applicants must have an income, but not too much. Habitat buyers must earn 60 percent or less of the median family income. But they also must have had a job for six months, and their $500 monthly mortgage payment to Habitat must be no more than 30 percent of their income, so they can afford the payments.

Many people mistakenly believe Habitat deals only with extremely low-income families, so they don't apply, she said. But a family of four can earn up to $39,600 a year and still be eligible, she said.

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