The application process for getting a home through Habitat is now open

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.

The application cycle is now open for four homes in Cudjoe Key.

Edwards said, “We only open the application cycle when we are building so that it’s fair to everybody. It’s a fair housing thing. So it is open now. We’re accepting the pre application form. We’re doing that this year, it’s different than how we’ve done it in the past because we want to make it easier for people. The full application is pretty intense. So we don’t want anybody to have to do that if we already know that they don’t quite fit the program. So the pre qualification asks about income and family makeup and that way we can kind of get a sense if your family would actually fit these homes that we’re building. If those basic qualifications are met, then you can go on to do the full application which will be available on the 22nd. So right now we’re just really encouraging everybody to come to an info session, find out about the program, fill out the pre qualification if you’re interested in buying an affordable home. Then very soon after these are done, we are going to be building more in Big Pine. So I encourage anybody interested in either of those to really come to an info session and get started on the process.”

What are the qualifications?

Edwards said, “It’s a set of four townhomes, and two of them are three bedroom homes and two of them are two bedroom homes. So the maximum amount of people you could have in a three bedroom would be six, and the maximum amount of people you could have in a two bedroom would be four. The income range for our homes is in the 80 percent AMI range. That means 80 percent of the area median income. It’s very confusing, there are a lot of different numbers. For our purposes are using the Monroe County SHIPP numbers and SHIPP it’s the State Housing Initiative Partnership Program, which is a program from the state that gives the county funding to a lot to people that need homebuyer assistance. So you can use that money to help offset down payment costs. We’re using the SHIPP numbers so that hopefully all of the families that we accept will be able to take advantage of that program. If you want to see them exactly, I’ve added the chart to our website.”

For the chart information, click here:

Edwards said, “They are available until the 22nd. Then we’ll move on to the full application. So if you fill out the pre qualification form now, which you can either do completely online, or you can download the printable version and fill it out by hand or you can pick one up in our office. Once those are submitted, then you will move on to the full application if you fit the program, and that will be available from November 22 to December 20. So that gives everybody a month to get that whole process done with the full application. I’m also passing out with the pre qualification form the list of documents that you’re going to need for the full application so that people can start working on gathering those together and getting ready for that full application.”

The pre-qualification isn’t a requirement, but it helps.

Edwards said, “I recommend it because it just is easier for everybody, but if they miss this pre qualification period, they can go right to the full application. You won’t have that first easy step before you find out if you qualify or not just fill out the full application. You can still go right to the full application if you want to, if you miss this window here. Then once we get to December 20, that’s it, you have to have all your documents, all the required documents in with that application, or your application is going to be considered incomplete. So that is a hard deadline.”

Sweat equity is also a part of a Habitat home.

Edwards said, “It’s really a partnership. We consider it a partnership with the families that go through the program. If you fill out the full application, the process is that it goes through financial credit and background checks. So that’s done by me, and our family selection committee and then there’s a home visit. Two people from our family selection committee will visit the applicant’s home and assess them for the three categories that we look for, which is the need for affordable housing, the ability to pay the mortgage by showing steady income, and the right income range, and the willingness to partner with Habitat and do the sweat equity work and take the homeowner education classes. So after that home visit, the family selection committee evaluates those three categories for the applicant. Then all of the evaluations are given to the Board of Directors after the family selection committee removes their names and any identifying information, so the board can make a really unbiased decision. They have the final decision really just based on the numbers. Then the chosen families enter into the partnership, and we work with them through the sweat equity process, and the education process. Then there’s a final financial review to make sure when families are going through this, it’s a several months long process, anywhere between four and eight months, usually. We tell them right away, don’t buy a car in that time period, because we’ve qualified them in the beginning and they have to pretty much stay the same by the end of that process with their finances. They can’t take on any new major debt. Then they get to the closing, close on their home and they’re in their home and have an affordable mortgage. But it is homeownership. There’s a lot of responsibilities, you have to pay the mortgage, if something breaks, you have to fix it.”

Education is also a component of the partnership.

Edwards said, “We scheduled them after we’ve chosen the families. They are partly financial, credit building, budgeting, that sort of thing, saving for emergencies. Then there’s also some Habitat specific classes, learning about Habitat and our values and learning about conflict resolution, how to be a good neighbor, also HOA, home maintenance class. We try to equip them with all the knowledge they’ll need to be a homeowner and it’s a lot of things to throw at people all at once. It’s a lot. So we try to continue to steward them into that first year and throughout their homeownership.”

There is also outreach in the public as well.

Edwards said, “This Saturday, I’m going to be at the Community Day at the College of the Florida Keys. I’m going to have a booth there from 10 to 2 and then next week, all week, I have information sessions. Monday night I’ll be at Bernstein Park from 5:30 to 7 with a Haitian Creole translator. The next night, Tuesday night, I will also be at Bernstein Park at from 5:30 to 7 with a Spanish translator. Wednesday I’ll be at the Key West Library from 5:30 to 7. Thursday I’ll be in the Big Pine Community Center from 5:30 to 7 and then the following Saturday on the 11th I will be at the Key West Library during the morning 10:30 to noon. So if anybody would like to learn about the program, those are good times to come by and ask all your questions, pick up information. I just encourage everybody to come out and learn about it and apply. Some people don’t get home the first time they apply. There’s only four homes in this round and there’s a lot of people interested. But a lot of our homeowners got a home on the second time they applied or the third time they applied. So I encourage everybody to give it a try. There’s going to be more home shortly to follow. It’s a good opportunity.”