by David Wenger, Executive Director
When you think about having financial security what comes to mind? Do you think about increasing your savings? Do you think about lowering your debt? Do think about creating a budget? Do you think about building a house? A HOUSE?!
At Central Valley Habitat for Humanity we think about all of these as we work for families who want financial security. We know that for most people housing is the largest cost that they experience each month. We know that more than 260,000 Virginians pay more than 50% of their budget for housing. We also know that there are over 18,000 individuals in Harrisonburg and Rockingham county living below the poverty level.
Central Valley Habitat for Humanity believes that working with individuals and families to purchase a simple, affordable place to live is the best way to provide financial security. When the family is paying less than 30% of their income on housing, they have more money to put into savings. When they have an affordable mortgage payment, they can pay bills in a timely manner. Budgets that were previously out of balance, suddenly become manageable.
The question becomes, how does Central Valley Habitat for Humanity work with families to provide financial security through housing?
1. Selecting Qualified Families
We start by selecting families who want to work for a better life for themselves and their children. These individuals are willing to work many hours helping to construct their home and the homes of others. During our follow up interviews with families, it becomes apparent that the feeling of empowerment that is achieved during the time spent on the work site creates the belief that individuals can make a difference in the lives of their family and in the community.
2. Teaming with Volunteers
By teaming with our giving community members to help build homes with families who need a helping hand, we add to their sense of “we are helping ourselves by helping others.” We work with individuals, churches, businesses and college groups to form teams that want to support and improve their communities. The members of these groups often find that they benefit in terms of knowledge and positive feelings. During our conversations with these groups we often hear that they receive more than they gave.
3. Community Connections
In a similar manner to the way we form volunteer teams with community groups, we work to form connections with building material suppliers. Through these connections we can gather or purchase quality new materials for the construction of homes while limiting building cost. This process allows us to build a quality home that increases the value of the homes around it.
4. Homeownership Classes
There are many first-time home owners across Rockingham County every year. These individuals are excited to get their first home, but many soon realize that home ownership is not easy. There is a lot of knowledge that is needed. How do I purchase homeowner’s insurance? How much are my property taxes and when are the taxes due? What is an escrow? The electricity is off in the kitchen…what do I do now? The list goes on and on. Central Valley Habitat works to prepare families for home ownership. It would be a mistake to give the keys to someone who has never owned a home and expect them to be prepared for home ownership. For this reason classes are provided so that the members of the Central Valley Habitat families understand how to create a budget, purchase insurance, pay taxes and do routine home maintenance.
How does Central Valley Habitat for Humanity work with families to provide financial security through housing? In short, by reducing the building cost through family and volunteer work and using donated items and empowering individuals with knowledge, the families can purchase a home with a mortgage payment that is typically less than they are paying in rent.
As a result, families can break the cycle of poverty, increase the physical and mental health of their families, spend more time with their children and change the communities around them. In this manner Central Valley Habitat for Humanity is building strength, stability and self-reliance through construction.
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