Archived Story

Habitat coming to county

Published 9:56am Friday, August 17, 2012

Huntington Area Habitat for Humanity is expanding its homeowner-directed house-building ministry into Lawrence County and, through the county’s tax lien program, may eliminate eyesores caused from abandoned properties.

“There is a tremendous need for affordable housing in Lawrence County,” David Michael, CEO of Habitat, said following the announcement of Habitat’s move at Thursday’s Lawrence County Commission meeting. “This has been a long time coming for me.”

Right now the Christian-based organization works exclusively in Cabell County and has built 78 houses there for low-income families who are living in substandard housing.

Habitat requires homeowners to put in a specified number of “sweat equity” hours where they work on building their house and those of other Habitat clients. They must pass a credit check, pay 100 percent of the downpayment and meet income guidelines. They must also take homeowner education classes.

“We don’t give our houses away,” Michael said. “We partner with (the homeowner) to build a house.”

After the home is built, homeowners must take over a mortgage.

“We charge no interest and make no profit to keep our houses affordable,” Michael told the commission.

Habitat hopes to acquire its first site in the county by year’s end and will concentrate on the areas from Sheridan to Athalia and Scottown to Aid.

“We rely on donated properties,” he said.

Some of those properties may come from the parcels now on the county’s delinquent tax list whose liens have been offered in public auctions by the County Treasurer Stephen Burcham, but were not purchased.

Now if the properties meet Habitat’s needs, Burcham will offer those liens to the organization for $1 each. Then Habitat must hold onto the properties for one year before it can begin foreclosure proceedings. After that the abandoned structure can be torn down to become a site for a new house.

“To get these back on the tax rolls,” Burcham said.

Commissioner Bill Pratt suggested that Community Development Block Grant funds could be used for demolition.

Burcham and Michael were to meet to come up with a list of delinquent properties. Then Habitat officials would make site visits.

“You do good work and help people realize their dream,” Commission President Les Boggs said.

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    Dear Poor Richard,
    Thank you for your comments regarding Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity’s expansion into Lawrence County. I would like to take a minute and touch on a few points you made. First and foremost, thank you for supporting the efforts of Habitat’s ministry. An ecumenical, Christian organization, Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to partner with low-income families in need and provide them with an opportunity for safe, decent and affordable housing. In the 22 years our affiliate has been serving Cabell County, West Virginia we have constructed and dedicated 78 homes. These homes have positively impacted the lives of more than 260 individuals, over 160 of which being children. As you can imagine, we are very excited to have the same positive impact on deserving families in Lawrence County.
    Since the ministry of Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity is a homeownership program, as with any mortgage company, our affiliate does not evict homeowners unless the home goes into foreclosure. I am pleased to inform you that in the 22 years our affiliate has been servicing Cabell County we have only had to foreclose on 2 homes out of 78. That is 2.5%. Partner families are selected based on their need for better housing, willingness to collaborate with Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity, and ability to repay a no-profit, no-interest loan. A big component of the families’ willingness to collaborate with our affiliate is the completion of sweat equity hours. For instance, a home with one adult requires a minimum of 250 sweat equity hours, while a home with two or more adults requires a minimum of 450 hours. In addition, each family is required to take homeowner education classes.
    To your point of requiring partner families be a resident of Ohio for at least 5 years or more, our affiliate will set forth stipulations as part of our policy that partner families must be a resident of Lawrence County for a minimum of 6 months. This is the same policy we enforce for Cabell County partner families.
    Lastly, homes constructed by Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity in Lawrence County will be built with partner families from Lawrence County. This is the way our ministry has worked in Cabell County for the past 22 years and will continue to work as we expand into Lawrence County. Likewise, all funds raised in Lawrence County will stay in Lawrence County.
    We would welcome the opportunity to discuss our ministry with you further or even take you on a tour of one of our construction sites. Feel free to call us at (304)523-4822 and thank you again for your interest in Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity.
    Jennifer R. Hatten
    Director of Development and Communications
    Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity

    (Report comment)

  • Poor Richard

    While I support Habitat’s efforts, I think there should be some land-use restrictions that go along with the newly built homes including eviction of the owners if they become involved in criminal activities, eviction if they do not keep the property clean and trash free, and they should be a resident of Ohio for at least 5-years or more before anyone would even consider building them a home. County officials should INSIST on stipulations!

    As a long time Lawrence County resident, I am absolutely NOT interested in having new citizens from other states with bad habitats and poor social skills or the inability to live within the law moving into our county. The county DOES NOT need to be spending county funds on out-of-state houligans.

    (Report comment)

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