Habitat homeowners learn financial literacy, contribute 'sweat equity' to qualify for homes

Home for Good-The Apostles Build kicks off on Saturday

ROANOKE, Va. – This week WSLS 10 will start its fifth Home for Good project in partnership with Habitat for Humanity in the Roanoke Valley, generous community sponsors, The Journey FM and more than 20 local churches. The Apostle Build will last about four-and-a-half months to construct a two-story, seven-bedroom house that will become the home for a Roanoke family of two adults and 11 children.

"It's our most ambitious undertaking so far, but we need a lot of bedrooms for all of those children and family members, so it's going to be a lot of fun," said Jenny Lee, Habitat's development director.

Jean Darby, Habitat's family services director, said families that apply for and are approved for a Habitat home usually spend a year of hard work earning hours of "sweat equity" by building their home and volunteering at other Habitat sites, and attending classes to learn the financial know-how to be a successful homeowner.

"They can become people in control of their finances, and they can know what bills to pay and when to pay them," Darby said.

As a part of its mission to build safe and affordable housing, Habitat looks at a potential homeowner's need, willingness to partner and ability to pay a monthly mortgage.

"Everybody has a mortgage and the difference with Habitat is most of these loans are free of interest," said Jenny Lee, Habitat development director.

Lee said low-interest and interest-free loans save each homeowner money.

Habitat is able to keep costs low because volunteer labor saves about $30,000 per house. Brian Clark, Habitat's construction director, said volunteers contribute about 80 percent of the hours that go into building each house. 

"Without them coming out and being willing to say, 'OK! What are we doing today?' and being willing to learn as we teach and train, we wouldn't be able to do what we do," Clark said.

The organization also relies on donations of goods and services from area businesses, and other community donations as it builds an average of eight homes each year in the Roanoke Valley.

"If somebody donates the washer and dryer, or the HVAC unit for the house, that's less we have to pay for," Lee said.

Lee said all of those elements have helped Habitat to build more than 200 homes in the Roanoke Valley since 1986.

"A dollar never dies," Lee said. "That first couple dollars has gone round and round to build 229 houses."

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