Habitat For Humanity, Metro Maryland
FOR SALE: A Piece of the American Dream - 3 bedroom single-family home on Virginia Ave in Hyattsville, MD
SELLER: Habitat for Humanity, Metro Maryland - believer that "good, stable housing matters for neighborhoods" and that families "with the right tools can have the confidence to maintain their own stable community" and change "lives, one home at a time!"
Seller has a 35-year history of delivering this dream to more than 90 hardworking families using a unique model of home ownership that offers low and moderate-income families living in the high-cost DC area the opportunity to purchase their own simple, decent, affordable home...
TERMS OF SALE: Buyers must have a sufficient housing need and: (1) have lived in Montgomery or PG County for at least one year; (2) be a US citizen or Permanent Resident; (3) have an annual household income between 30% and 50% (and sometimes 60%) of the Area Median Income determined by HUD; (4) make a cash down payment of at least 1% and agree to a 30 year mortgage where equity is not immediately accumulated and Seller has right of first refusal to avoid flipping; and (5) contribute 200-500 hours (depending on family size) of sweat equity into their house or another house being built by Seller. Intensive interviews, applications, supporting documentation, and orientation also required.
BUYER: A lovely and hardworking family of 4 from Ethiopia who will help to bring value and stability to this neighborhood. They passed the rigorous screening process and the husband/father worked with me today on the property. (He's very nice!)
Today, I was part of this American Dream by being a construction site volunteer! Yes, me! It was an experience outside of my regular skill set, but guess what? I LOVED IT!! I worked alongside 6 incredibly nice and patient volunteer vets, 2 eager and helpful newbies, the husband/father/future owner of this Virginia Avenue property and the wife/mother/future owner of the other Habitat project on New Salem Avenue in Upper Marlboro. This rainy day was one to remember but first, a few confessions:
CONFESSION #1: I thought I'd be GREAT at this kind of stuff!
CONFESSION #2: I watch a lot of HGTV and secretly had dreams of becoming a do-it-myself flipper!
CONFESSION #3: I never used a drill before today! (Being married to "Mr. Fixit" means John does all of the work at our house!)
CONFESSION #4: I'm NOT great at this kind of stuff, I CANNOT flip a house by myself, and the fellow volunteer who taught me how to use a drill was FAR MORE patient than John would have been! (Thank you)
Volunteers here need no experience (thank goodness) - simply the desire to help and the willingness to learn! I started outside with the demo crew to remove the aluminum siding from the house. Not eager to work on a high ladder, I stuck to the pieces I could reach from the ground. I also removed the insulation from the back of the siding to avoid a potential mess caused by those who may come by at night looking for the scrap metal. Keeping the job site clean and being a good neighbor is very important to Habitat.
The siding came down quickly and just in time for lunch. I made a coffee run with some of the volunteers and then returned for some good conversation. Isn't drinking coffee on a job site part of the whole experience? I only wished I had a metal thermos. Most of the volunteers worked with one another before and came suited up in their own coveralls and tool belts. They were very sweet and welcoming. It helped to have seasoned volunteers around, not just because they were great teachers, but because they had enough experience to make on-site decisions such as closet placement, laundry plugs, etc. Habitat seems to value and trust their volunteers.
After lunch, I attempted to do some framing work. Honestly, even hammering a nail in straight was a challenge for me! I know not many of you are surprised about that but a sweet volunteer wouldn't let me quit until I had done a few successfully. This time together also gave us time to talk about Habitat as an organization as she has volunteered for over 10 years. She educated me about the home acquisition process, the financing terms, sweat equity commitments, etc. It was great to get the big picture while we were working on the smaller details. Before I knew it, the day was nearing end and it was time to think about re-securing the house for the night. Here is where I learned to use my first power tool! I worked alongside a new volunteer who I learned had served in the military and now is a pilot for a commercial airline. In his days off, he stays busy by volunteering in the community. Not only was he very kind, he was VERY patient with me as I learned to work the power drill. Our task was to close up the windows and other openings with MDF and plywood. With the perfect combo of patience, praise, and constructive criticism, I got the hang of it (still not a pretty process to watch).
As I left this property on Virginia Avenue, I thought about the family who would live here. The kids who would ride bikes up and down the sidewalks, the dad who'd return home with pride, and the mother who would relish in having a safe and beautiful home for her family. This really is the American dream and I'm so happy I got to be a part of it. I left today with new friends, new skills, and much hope.
My Takeaways: (1) The need for affordable housing is everywhere and Habitat's premise that "decent" and affordable housing empowers people, families, and communities is so true. Bringing stability by removing the fear of eviction, reducing the frequency of moves, and the need to decide between paying rent or buying food or medicine, makes families happier, healthier, and more self-reliant and confident. Here in Montgomery County, MD, the average rent for a 2 bedroom apartment is $1,731/month, which requires an annual salary of $69,240. A single-working parent needs to earn $86,580/year to sufficiently support 2 children. The federal poverty level for a family of 3 is $20,420/year. So many families fall deep within this gap between "poverty" and "sufficiency." Without assistance, housing instability and insecurity result. Habitat has been around for 42 years and, in Maryland, for 36. They help homeowners through education, strong vetting, and fair lending practices AND help communities by buying homes that need rehabilitation, repair, and/or constructing new homes that will house good productive neighbors; (2) Working alongside two future Habitat homeowners was very meaningful. Hearing about their lives in Ethiopia, education here in the U.S., and their children was inspiring. Imagine how humbling it must be to watch perfect strangers come to work on your home. Now, that's the beauty of this American Dream! I really look forward to attending one of the dedication ceremonies later this spring when the projects are completed. (3) Many of the regular volunteers were retired men and women. I'm telling you, this work is hard and tiring. It must be great for their bodies and mind to work this way from time-to-time - not to mention for their generous spirit. I came home telling John that I've figured out how he should spend his retirement. Hope he is game!