Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Just give me the Muskoka FAQs

Habitat for Humanity Muskoka
Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 in the United States. It is a non-profit, faith-based housing program that seeks to eliminate poverty housing worldwide and to make decent shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat invites people from a broad spectrum of social, ethnic, religious and economic backgrounds to work in partnership to build homes and hope with families in need.

Habitat for Humanity has built more than 300,000 homes in over 100 countries around the world. A new home is dedicated worldwide every 10 minutes.

Habitat for Humanity Canada was founded in 1985, consists of over 50,000 volunteers and 72 affiliate organizations, and has dedicated nearly 2,000 homes from coast to coast since its inception.

Habitat for Humanity Muskoka was established as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity Canada in 2002. Our first home was built in 2003. Since 2003, eight homes have now been built by Habitat for Humanity Muskoka for families across Muskoka who may not otherwise be able to experience the joys and responsibilities of home ownership. Our ninth and tenth homes are being built in Bala this summer.

2. How Does Habitat Work?

Through volunteer labour, efficient management and donations of money and materials, Habitat homes are built and sold to partner families at no profit. They are financed with affordable, no interest mortgages, geared to the families' financial circumstances. Habitat for Humanity is not a give-away program. In addition to the mortgage payments, each homeowner contributes 500 hours of unpaid labour into the building of their home and other homes. This is called "Sweat Equity". Sweat equity increase pride of ownership and reduces Habitat's costs.

3. How Does a Habitat Project Get Started?

First, through finding a partner family, obtaining a suitable building lot, finding sponsors for the build, designing a home for the partner family, obtaining cash donations as well as donated building materials and services, recruiting volunteers and finally, building the home.

4. How is This A Hand Up, Not a Hand Out?

Habitat houses are sold to families, not given to them free of charge. In addition, families help to build their own home. By building homes at low cost, requiring very little or no down payment, and not charging interest on the mortgage, Habitat for Humanity is able to provide an opportunity, or a "hand up", to buy a home for families that would not otherwise qualify for a conventional mortgage. CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) requires our homes to be mortgaged at fair market value.
5. How are Habitat Projects Funded?

The cost of a typical Habitat home in Muskoka is about $65,000 including the cost of services and construction. We depend on the community to donate material, time and services to decrease build costs however the more we are required to purchase, the higher the home cost is. If we must also purchase the lot, the cost can be substantially more. The funds to complete our building projects come from a number of sources. Mortgage income from our eight existing homes, profits from the ReStore operation, donations, income from fundraising events and financial support from major sponsors all go toward the construction of Habitat homes in our community. In addition, donations of materials and services, and volunteer labour are used to minimize the direct cost of construction.

6. How Does Habitat Relate to Government?

Habitat is a Registered Charity. We are not a government agency. However, Habitat does encourage participation with all levels of government to partner in the provision of land or existing houses for rehabilitation as long as the principles of Habitat for Humanity remain intact.

7.  Who Controls and Manages Habitat for Humanity Canada?

The National Board of Directors determines and monitors operations. Board members are dedicated volunteers who are deeply concerned about the problems of poverty housing in Canada. The President and COO direct the National Office with an administrative staff, assisted by a core group of dedicated long-term and short-term volunteers.

8. How Does this Program Benefit the Families and Communities in the Long-Run?

Over time, a family's equity in their home increases. Habitat families also often see an improvement in their financial situation since the percentage of their income being spent on housing remains at 30%. Prior to purchasing a Habitat home many of these families are spending over 50% of their income on rent.

A safe, healthy living environment contributes to the positive growth and development of children. Habitat has recorded many examples of children within Habitat families becoming healthier, completing a post-secondary education and establishing successful careers.
Communities benefit as former renters become homeowners who contribute to the tax base. Habitat build projects also offer an opportunity for community members, of all walks of life, to come together and work side by side in a meaningful way.

As the poverty cycle is broken, and a family's financial situation improves their dependence on local social services is decreased. In addition, pride of ownership leads to a renewed sense of confidence, and along with their stable, long-term housing arrangement, they become long-term contributors to the community and the local economy.

The three criteria to qualify for a Habitat home are:

1.      need for affordable housing,
2.      ability to repay a Habitat mortgage, and
3.      willingness to partner with Habitat.

Need for affordable housing is defined by a family income that is below the government-set Low Income Cut-Off (poverty line) for their particular region, and existing living conditions that are inadequate in terms of structure, cost, safety or size. The ratio of shelter expense to total income is also factored.

Ability to repay a Habitat mortgage requires that the family has a stable income sufficient to cover the monthly mortgage payments and other expenses that come with home ownership.

Homeowners must demonstrate a willingness to partner with Habitat by contributing 500 hours of volunteer labor ("sweat equity") towards the building of their home.

9. What about Community Partnerships?

Habitat fulfills its mission by forming partnerships with individuals, churches, corporations, local businesses and service organizations across Muskoka.

10.  How Can I Become a Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity Muskoka?

General volunteer information is available on the Habitat for Humanity Muskoka web site.  Habitat needs volunteers to work on build site, committees and at the Habitat ReStore.

Habitat for Humanity Muskoka – 705.646.0106 or  Email us at:  info @ habitatmuskoka.com Website
To travel to a location outside your community to help build,
       contact the local Canadian affiliate to see where they’re building this year or contact Habitat for Humanity International’s Global Village Program for a list of projects worldwide.

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