2015Habitat: In October of 2015, this home was completed. Courtesy Photo.
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There’s No Place Like Home: Habitat for Humanity Seeking Qualified Family Applicants

Whether you’re a Globe-Miami native living elsewhere and longing to return, or you’re already living here but renting – and dreaming of a house of your own – everyone deserves to have a place to call home. That’s been the goal of Habitat for Humanity since the day the organization began.  

Habitat for Humanity is a global nonprofit organization based on the idea of partnership housing, where families work alongside volunteers to build a safe, decent home, and then can live in the house they built, with an affordable mortgage. The organization began in Georgia in 1968, founded by Christians who took to heart the Bible verse Exodus 22:25: “If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not treat it like a business deal; charge no interest.” Mortgage payments get cycled back into building more homes. Today, there are affiliates in all 50 states. 

Habitat for Humanity welcomes applications from anyone who desires to be a part of this work, regardless of religious preference, race, or background. Housing applicants are put through a rigorous application process consisting of a background check, credit check, employment verification, and financial check to ensure that they can manage a mortgage and utility payments. Applicants must provide character references, who are verified and interviewed. Future homeowners are also required to attend financial education and budget-planning classes. And they must contribute 500 hours of sweat equity toward the construction of their home. The work is overseen by professional contractors and builders. 

Qualified Applicants

One of the challenges Habitat affiliates have is that they receive a lot of applications from people who don’t qualify. For example, applications come in from single mothers who don’t work, but rather rely on public assistance and confuse Habitat with Section 8 type housing – where the government pays some or all of the rent for an apartment. Habitat is not a program that gives away homes.

Susan Hanson, president of the Globe-Miami Habitat for Humanity affiliate, says, “In order to qualify, applicants must have a job, pay their bills on time and have a good credit score and be able to pay an extremely reasonable mortgage payment and the utilities.” Applicants also must demonstrate a need for safe, affordable housing. “If they meet these requirements, they may be able to qualify for a home.”

Another point the local affiliate board members want to drive home – no pun intended – is that the definition of a family today is not nearly what it was 10 or 20 years ago.

So, What Is a Family?

The latest Habitat project is on Nash Street in Miami. It is located just off Sullivan Street downtown, on the North side. If you were standing on the corner of Sullivan Street & Cordova (where basketball courts & swimming pool is) look North.

“Families today can be real different as to the dynamic and structure,” says Hanson. It could be a single man or woman living with their children, or a couple living with their children. It could be grandparents living with their grandchildren, or parents living with their adult child or children, along with their spouses or partners. “A family can be all kinds of scenarios. We would like people to look at their own situation and realize that they could be the perfect applicant.” 

It’s important to remember that your application, even if you qualify, will not necessarily be immediately accepted for a home to be built. Naomi Urquidez applied on and off for seven years and was put on a waiting list before she received the news that Habitat was going to build a home for her. Three years ago, Urquidez and her three children, all under the age of 18, moved into their new three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Claypool.  

For Urquidez, being blessed with her own home was a dream she’d had for many years. She’s glad she never gave up hope. 

“It’s wonderful working in the yard and taking care of a property and yard that’s mine and not someone else’s, and paying a mortgage for something I own rather than paying rent to someone else for something they own, not me,” Urquidez says. 

Urquidez has worked as a secretary at a lumberyard for more than 16 years and was able to qualify for a home based on her level of income and good credit. Not only did she and her kids put sweat equity into the project, but her parents helped, too. Her employer gave Habitat the building materials at contractor pricing. They also found other contractors who were all too happy to assist in the building of her home. “Even the neighbors would come over (during the building phase) and ask if we needed help with anything,” Urquidez says.

Urquidez says to never give up if you’ve applied to Habitat and not been accepted immediately. “Just keep applying every year and never give up. You will eventually get blessed. It just takes a bit of time, but it will happen,” she says. “It’s the most blessed thing you can sign up for. And even with all the hours and effort that went into this, it was well worth it.”

Current Build in Miami

Habitat is currently doing a build site in the Town of Miami in a downtown residential neighborhood. They’ve been buying up land and clearing the property in a half-block area. 

“There will be four homes in all in this current project, all energy-efficient, beautiful inside and out, and all appliances included,” says Hanson. Ground-breaking on the first home, for which they have an approved applicant, will happen sometime mid-summer, depending on COVID-19 restrictions. Two other homes are planned for the near future, and the fourth one is about two or three years out, Hanson estimates. The first three have already been approved by the city’s zoning committee.  

Hanson says, “As we’re building, we’ll be able to pull in more than one family. Ideally, if we get enough qualified applicants, we could even start breaking ground all at the same time. If not, it will be one right after the other.”

The Globe-Miami Habitat for Humanity affiliate has built 12 homes already – one about every other year. “But because of the unusual circumstances and building a cluster – the first time it will be done in Globe-Miami – we will be doing multiple homes within a two-year period,” says Hanson.

Hanson stresses that their mission is not just about building homes for people who need them, but it’s also about changing neighborhoods. “We go into neighborhoods where existing properties are in quite bad shape and Habitat clears the land, including the existing building. And by building a new home, it helps to improve and increase the overall character and value of the neighborhood, while giving our applicant a nice, safe, decent home.” 

The Globe-Miami Habitat for Humanity serves the communities of Globe, Claypool, and Miami, with new home-builds throughout.

Anyone interested in applying for a Habitat home should request an application by sending a private message on the Globe-Miami Habitat for Humanity Facebook page. Or they can call Susan Hanson at (928) 701-1414 to have an application emailed or mailed. 

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