Athens Habitat has 4 basic programs that contribute to our mission – Affordable Homes, Renew Athens, E.H.A.R.P., and Brush with Kindness.
Homeowners must be in the financial position that they cannot otherwise afford decent housing, but in order to allow Athens Habitat to sustainably continue its mission, they must also be able to pay our very low, zero-interest mortgages, the typical payments of which are just under $400. We also consider “sweat equity”. It’s a common misconception that Habitat gives away homes. Really, when we build a house it is in partnership with the future owner. They work with us on the build site or in one of our ReStores.
For example, the Magnolia Terrace neighborhood is the latest Renew Athens Project. This neighborhood is comprised of 20 units with close access to grocery stores, health care, schools, local library, and public transportation. Renovation began in 2016 and is expected to take 2 years to complete.
Homeownership Is a Proven Way To Battle Poverty:
Homeowners are more capable of accumulating wealth, and they have higher civic engagement, better physical health, and are less likely to be victims of crime. Once a family owns a home, they are more likely to protect this new asset. Because property value is determined by both structure quality and neighborhood character, homeowners are more likely to engage in the community in a positive way to ensure the value of their asset remains high. Increased homeownership boosts both the local and national economies through increase property value and increasing the local tax base which improves public services. Children who live in a stable home tend to have better physical health, do better academically, and are more likely to be homeowners themselves as adults thereby ensuring future economic growth.
But people in poverty can only reap the benefits of homeownership if their ownership is sustainable. Athens Area Habitat for Humanity builds 3-bedroom homes for about $80,000 using a zero-interest mortgage, which includes the cost of land. This makes homeowner payments around $300 per month plus taxes and insurance. Partner families also provide a down payment of $500 as well as 500 “sweat equity” hours which are earned by working on Habitat job sites. Habitat helps families build homes of their own through sweat equity and a manageable payment plan, giving families in need a “hand up” not a hand out.
To read an eye-opening case study showing how owning a home can totally transform a family’s life, even if it just means moving across the street, see this report from NPR: The American Dream – One Block Can Make All the Difference.
The Housing Need in the Athens Area
The median home value in Athens-Clarke County as of 2014 was $111,300. Using the 30 percent rule, annual income of $33,390 is required to afford a home of this value, which equates to an hourly wage of about $16.05/hour working 40 hours/week. Consequently, approximately 21,000 households in Athens-Clarke County do not have incomes that would support monthly homeowner costs for a home of this value. Even for an $80,000 home in Athens-Clarke County, where an individual would have to make an annual income of $24,000 to afford a monthly homeowner costs without paying more than 30 percent, approximately 17,250 households could not afford to own this home.