Let’s check in with Habitat for Humanity

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.

Homeownership education is important for Habitat.

Edwards said, “We just started our fall session. This year, we’re going to do one session in the fall, which we’re doing right now in Old Town, and one session in the winter. We’re going to try to do that in Big Pine Key. In the spring, we’re shooting for Stock Island. We had our first class Tuesday night, and that was focused on what affordable housing options are currently available or will soon be available in Key West and the Lower Keys.”

The class talked about how to purchase an existing deed restricted unit in the city.

Edwards said, “Then I gave an overview of Habitat for Humanity and how our homebuyer program works. So it was a really good group that we’ve got going on right now. We have three more classes in this session. Our class number two will focus on budgeting for homeownership, building your credit and managing debt. Class Number three, which is the following week, will focus on financing your home through mortgage and assistance program. Then class four will be about choosing your home, working with a realtor and closing on your home.”

Some members of the class include people who have never bought a home before.

Edwards said, “It’s a lot of first time homebuyers and what a lot of people also don’t know is that to qualify for the first time homebuyer program, you don’t have to never have owned a home, you just can’t have owned a home in the past three years. So if you owned a home in the past, but you had to sell it, which is kind of what happened with me personally, I owned a home and then it got flooded during Hurricane Wilma. That kind of scared me and we sold it not too long after that. If I had held on to it, it probably would have been worth a lot of money right now. So I am now a first time homebuyer again when I go to buy something. Not everybody knows that. It doesn’t mean you never have to have owned a home.”

People can’t have owned a home anywhere within the past three years.

Edwards explained, “That’s just to take advantage of the Homebuyer Assistance Programs. They can still take the class. We welcome anybody that’s interested to take the class. It doesn’t get you any credit or anything. It doesn’t get you a leg up in the Habitat program or the Lofts, but it gives you the knowledge to get ready for any of these, and I think that’s really important to start being ready to act.”

The course is free of charge.

Edwards said, “We’re happy to do this for free for our community residents.”

There are some projects getting ready to start.

Edwards said, “We have been kind of stalled in our building, because we’re working on some policy issues, which everybody in the county and the city has been working on. Now we feel like there is kind of a game plan in place, and we are ready to start building. So we’re going to do a lot right away. We have a project in Cudjoe, which will be four homes. Then we have additional four homes in Big Pine Key on scattered sites, and the possibility of doing an additional four more homes in Big Pine Key. So we’re ready to hit the ground running and anybody that’s interested in the Habitat Homebuyer Program, I would urge you to go to our website, and if you go to that top menu, there’s a menu item, buy a home. If you click on that, there is a banner at the top and there’s a link where you can click to be notified when we start accepting applications. So I would urge you to get on our notification list and you will be the first to know when we do start accepting applications because it will be soon.”

There is an application window where people can’t apply before or after that.

Edwards said, “That’s according to fair housing law and Habitat policy. We don’t want anyone to have an advantage over anybody else. So we just open the window, we blast out the information to as many people as we can. The application window will be open for about four to six weeks.”

Sweat equity is also a factor in determining who would end up with a Habitat home.

Edwards said, “There are actually three things that you need to do to qualify. The first is you have to demonstrate that you have the need for the housing. So where you’re living currently has to be unsafe, or overcrowded, or you’re paying too much for your rent, which is very, very common. Then you also have to be in the right income bracket for our program. We specifically serve people at 80 percent of the area median income. You can find those charts on the county website to figure out where your family is. You also have to be willing to partner with Habitat and that means you have to be willing to do between 200 and 300 hours of sweat equity, and that is working on your home or your neighbor’s home, or volunteering out in the community and also taking more education classes that we have specifically for Habitat homeowners.”

There could be potentially 12 new Habitat homes build in the immediate future.

Edwards said, “It is very exciting. To do that, we need to raise the money. We will be having a mini golf tournament at Boondocks on November 19. If anybody would like to sponsor a hole, we need hole sponsors. So please give us a call at 305-294-9006. Or you can email me at [email protected].” 

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