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Habitat for Humanity in Springfield: Homes Available to be Filled

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat Partners, or those working toward a Habitat house, must fill a certain number of volunteer hours as a requirment toward home ownership. Peterson says this is a fun way to give back, or pay it forward to others in the program. Photo Credit: Habitat for Humanity

Springfield continues to look deeper into the issues surrounding poverty. But one local program says it has more homes than it does qualified applicants to fill those homes. KSMU’s Theresa Bettmann has more.

Larry Peterson is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity in Springfield. He says that despite the needs many people have for better or more affordable housing, his program currently has seven vacancies.

One reason for that is because two homes were recently donated. But mostly, Peterson says, it's because of a lower number of qualified people applying. He says this seems to be a trend for Habitat programs nationwide.

This trend could be because those who live within the qualifying income levels are facing more debt or a decline in income due to the economy.  Others, he said, may be taking advantage of the low interest rates and buying homes on their own.

Habitat For Humanity doesn't give away homes; it helps people buy their own homes.  Peterson says the program currently has around 90 mortgages. Applicants must make between 30 and 60 percent of the average median income, Peterson says.  According to Census statistics, the median income for Springfield is around $47,000. 

“Then we look at if they have a job and if they’re able to come up with the first year escrow payment. We also look at their debt to income ratio.  Basically the non-financial qualifications we look at are their need.  Are they living in run-down conditions or paying too much rent?  That gives them a bigger need than other folks for better housing,” says Peterson.

Applicants must also commit their time to the program, Peterson explains.

“They have to earn their home even though they buy it, by doing what we call ‘sweat equity.’  Depending upon the size of the family, they’re required to put in between 200 and 300 hours,” Peterson says.

These hours, Peterson say, can completed by working on the family’s own home, building someone else’s home, or volunteering at the Habitat For Humanity Restore.

Patti Baker is scheduled to move into her Habitat for Humanity home this spring. She says the people at Habitat are great to work with.

“I’ve kind of joked with them that it is going to be hard for me that when my house is built, that I won’t have this one-on-one contact with the Habitat, I may have some withdrawal symptoms,” Baker says.

Baker lives with her daughter and two granddaughters, and is the breadwinner in the home. 

She used to own a home, but lost it after rising mortgage costs.  She's been renting ever since.

Peterson says Habitat is able to provide newly built or renovated homes for cents on the dollar because of volunteers and donated materials.  The organization will present new keys to three families this Spring.

For KSMU News, I’m Theresa Bettmann.