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December 23, 2012

Habitat helps families have a home for the holidays

NORMAN — At a small brightly-painted home east of downtown Norman, a single mother of four prepares for Christmas in their rehabbed home, made possible by Cleveland County’s Habitat for Humanity.

It’s one of 40 homes the local chapter has built or rehabilitated. This year, the local Habitat office will finish a home on Symmes Street, start a rehab on 1st Street in Moore and start two new builds with the OU College of Architecture.

Habitat is a partnership with the families. They work alongside to invest some sweat equity in the home.

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Executive director Jennifer Houchins says there are many myths about Habitat homes. The local chapter also operates a popular Restore which sells donated building products to help finance the operation.

Homeowners have to qualify to start on the home ownership path. “In addition to a down payment and monthly mortgage payments, homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor into building their Habitat house and the houses of others,” Houchins said.

Habitat houses are sold to partner families at no profit and financed with affordable loans. Some can’t qualify for traditional house financing. Most have incomes of 30 to 50 percent of the area’s median income.

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In most cases, prospective Habitat homeowner families make a $500 down payment and perform 300 to 500 hours of "sweat equity" on the construction of their home or someone else's home.

Because Habitat houses are built using donations of land, material and labor, mortgage payments are kept affordable. Houchins said they have had few, if any, problems with Habitat homeowners making their payments.

She said studies show affordable housing has no adverse effect on neighborhood property values. In fact, Habitat houses have proven to increase property values and local government tax income.

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