Habitat for Humanity works hard to help people

Hannah Edwards, Community Outreach Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Key West and Lower Florida Keys, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about their projects.

Staff and volunteers with Habitat work hard in the Keys.

Edwards said, “We’re small but mighty down here. As long as we keep getting these ROGOs, we’re going to keep building. I don’t know how long that’s going to last, but we will do what we can. So right now, we are almost finished, we’re in the homestretch with our four-plex in Cudjoe. Those four families are painting their units, we’re about to start landscaping and doing all of the final touches. We had some volunteers up there painting the columns for us. It’s really starting to come together, which is really exciting. It’s just always so amazing to see these families and their excitement levels at finally reaching this this goal that they’ve been working for for so long. So when these four are done in Cudjoe, we have eight single family homes that we’re working on in Big Pine. So we’re in the beginning stages of that. We’re doing all the permitting and then we should be having the columns start to go up soon. We have four families already working towards four of those. Then we will be opening our application cycle again, pretty soon, I would say within the next couple of months to qualify the next four families and that will be all eight families for Big Pine Key and those are all three bedroom, two bathroom and they’re single family on their own piece of land. Well, it’s land authority land that they generously buy and lease to us, Habitat, with a 99 year lease, and then we sublease it to the homeowners. That is really how we’re able to do as much as we do is thanks to the cooperation of the land authority and our partnership with them. So we’re very grateful for that partnership. You hear about community land trusts in other areas and that’s basically what we have here with our land authority. It’s just a different structure, but it works pretty much the same way.”

The Keys are very lucky to have the land authority and Habitat working so closely together.

Edwards said, “It’s really great. The difference between a community land trust and our land authority is that a community land trust has a lot of structure to provide the families with stewardship, etc. But because we’re Habitat, we do that part. So that’s how we’re able to make it all work. Because we have to ensure that this land stays for affordable housing in perpetuity. So in order to do that, we have to keep in contact and keep stewardship with those families to make sure that they don’t fall through the cracks and they accidentally sell that home on the open market or sometimes those deed restrictions, if you’re not on top of it, then they can fall through the cracks. But we really make sure that we’re not letting that happen.”

Educational programs offered by Habitat provide great preparation for the application process for homes.

Edwards said, “We are just getting towards the end of our community class spring session. We have one more class this Tuesday night. That will be on insurances and escrow accounts. It’s going to be a really good class. If anybody wants to join us, it’s going to be at Peace Covenant Church. That’s on 2610 Flagler Avenue. The presenters are going to be one of our staff members from Habitat, Terence White is going to talk about how escrows work, which can be mystifying if you’ve never had a home before. It sounds simple, but it can get complex. Then the insurance, I’m going to have an agent from Southern Most Insurance, her name is Roseann. She’s super excited to present because she has been in the Keys for a few years, but where she was before, she worked with Habitat closely and it’s a passion of hers also. So she’s excited to be a part of the process too. She’s going to talk about all the different types of insurance. Then we have Caroline Horn from FIRM who’s going to talk about what FIRM is doing and how our homeowners can get involved and be advocates for Fair Insurance Rates in Monroe County. So I think that’s going to be really great. I really want to get our homeowners involved in this advocacy process, because they’re so affected by the insurance rates, more so than many other people because sometimes they’re paying more or equal in insurance that they’re paying on their principal. We’re thankful that our legislators are aware and are working with us to fight this in Tallahassee. We’ve had great cooperation with Ana Maria Rodriguez and Representative Jim Mooney as well. They’re really taking this on to fight it in Tallahassee because it’s a huge issue, as well as the fact that we build above the floodplain and yet our homeowners are still paying so much in flood insurance. It just kind of doesn’t seem to make sense. So we’re working with FIRM and we’re doing everything we can to try and make some changes in that area.”

There are also rental units for Habitat being renovated, as well.

Edwards said, “We have 27 rental units, which is a little unusual for Habitat affiliate. Most Habitats just focus on homeownership. But we are actually transforming our rentals into a homeownership readiness program. So it’ll be a program where the renters have the goal of homeownership, and they’ll stay in our rentals for up to five years while they get ready. So they’ll be taking the classes, they’ll be doing some sweat equity labor to offset the cost of their rent and eventually, we don’t have it going yet, but eventually, we’re going to have a savings program for them, too, where we can save a portion of their rent for them and that will become their down payment when they’re done renting with us. We’re renovating our Stock Island units. Right now we’ve got 12 in Stock Island, 12 in Key West, and three in Big Coppitt, and the ones in Stock Island, they’re concrete buildings, and they had a lot of falling issues. After seeing everything with those condos in Miami, we wanted to be really proactive and make sure we’re staying on top of all issues. So those are currently being renovated. We’ve got one building done and we’re moving on to the next building. There’s three buildings of four units and they’re going to be really nice. The first one turned out really nice. So it’s an exciting project.”

Critical repairs is another facet of Habitat for Humanity in the Keys.

Edwards said, “We do home repairs for low income homeowners, both in the city and the county. It’s kind of two separate programs, the program in the city is funded by the city. They actually fund the owner portion as well. Typically, the owner contributes 10% to the project. But in the city, the city is picking up the whole tab, which is really awesome. We’ve been doing a lot of those critical home repairs, mostly, I would say 90% of our critical repair clients are seniors and they want to be able to stay safely in their homes and age in place. So the repairs are mostly focused on safety and accessibility. We do a lot of accessible bathroom remodels, a lot of making floors level and safe so that folks are able to get around easily and not trip and fall down, a lot of porch repairs so that that’s safe for people going up and down safely. All sorts of repairs. So that’s been going really well and we’re getting to the end of this funding cycle. I’ve already got a lot of applicants for our next funding cycle.”

The Habitat warehouse is still looking for a new location.

Edwards said, “Anybody that knows of a good sized, commercial space that would rent to us at a very reasonable rate, please, please let us know. We really want to have a real Restore and the warehouse is stumbling along as it can, but we really we really want to have a real Restore. It would just be a great thing for the community and it would be great for Habitat as well.”

For more information, click here:  https://www.habitatlowerkeys.org/