There are those who take home ownership for granted, but you can be sure they’re not among the families whose dream of having a safe, affordable and permanent roof over their heads was made possible by Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver.
For these families, the stability and peace of mind that homeownership brings can be life-changing, enabling them to create better lives for themselves—often in ways they never thought possible.
David and Furaha, for example, came to America to escape violence in their native Congo—violence that included the murder of David’s father by rebels who also burned down the family home.
This month, David, a security professional, Furaha, a housekeeper, and their three children will move from an apartment in a sketchy neighborhood and into the Habitat for Humanity home they helped build in the faith-based nonprofit’s Sheridan Square, a 63-unit development that once completed will increase the town of Sheridan’s population by 350 people, or six percent.
When they are settled, Furaha plans to enroll in nursing school while David takes classes to improve his English (he already speaks six languages) and study for a career as a medical interpreter.
“Habitat gave us a second start,” David says. “We came to America and struggled looking for a job, looking for life. Habitat is making us alive again.”
Ann Padilla-Parras is another example of a life improved because of Habitat’s housing stability.
In a letter that she wrote to nominate Habitat’s chief executive officer Heather Lafferty to become one of the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce’s 25 Most Powerful Women for 2019, Padilla-Parras described how she, her single mother and four siblings moved into a Habitat home in 1982. “As a result of having a stable home and safe place to live, we all graduated from high school and went on to find jobs and build families of our own,” Padilla-Parras said. Currently, Padilla-Parras works as a juvenile diversion officer in the Denver District Attorney’s office, serves on the Habitat board of directors and is about to start work on a master’s degree.
Since its founding in 1979, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s 20,000 volunteers have completed or renovated 1,300 homes and is the fifth largest affiliate in Habitat for Humanity’s international network. Each family that qualifies for a Habitat home is required to put in 200 or more hours of sweat equity during the construction process.
Habitat doesn’t give homes away. In addition to the sweat equity, prospective homeowners must stay current on the monthly payments for their below market rate loan. An overwhelming majority do, as evidenced by the 0.3 percent foreclosure rate. Homeowners can sell at any time, but must give Habitat first right to purchase it. The average occupancy is 25 years.
“Having mortgage payments that don’t fluctuate gives our homeowners peace of mind, and enables them to settle into one job, instead of having to work two or three just to keep up with rent payments that would often increase with little notice. Seven of every 10 of our homeowners say they have an easier time budgeting and paying their bills on time, and that they’re not adding debt.”
In addition, 98 percent of the kids who have grown up in a Habitat home have graduated from high school, and are often the first in their family to do so. Ninety-two percent expect to attend college. One homeowner recently told Lafferty that her son had just been admitted to Yale on a full-ride scholarship.
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver had its start 40 years ago “when a group of community leaders sat down in a church basement to talk about the lack of affordable housing in the metro area,” Lafferty recalls. “We started out with homes that were donated to us, but they needed to be moved from the lots they were on and were in need of extensive repair.”
Today, the focus is on building new homes, although repairs and renovations are still being done on homes and condominiums that are otherwise fine to remain where they are.
Habitat volunteers also partner with non-Habitat homeowners in the Globeville, Elyria-Swansea and Westwood neighborhoods to help them stay put by making repairs to roofs, windows, entry ways and the like.
A partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association will reach 160 individuals this year, offering home-health visits and light modifications that improve occupant safety by installing handrails on both sides of stairs, tub and shower grab bars and ramps for easier wheelchair access.
Lafferty describes Habitat’s new builds as “very efficient, with a focus on an open floor plan to maximize the space in homes that average 1,100 to 1,350 square feet.” Architectural features vary, and are determined by existing structures in the neighborhood.
In Swansea, where ground for a 32-home site was broken in late March, “We reached out to neighbors who live nearby and asked them to walk the neighborhood with our architect to point out what they did and didn’t like in homes already there. We wanted to build something the neighborhood would be proud of.”
Since its founding four decades ago, Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver has completed or renovated 1,300 homes.
Mission: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, community and hope.
Funding: Habitat’s $28 million annual budget is met through donations, homeowner mortgage payments, the support of 130 businesses and income from the five ReStore outlets that sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, cabinetry, building materials and more.
Joanne Davidson gives thanks every day for having a roof over her head and the ability to maintain it. She also shares Habitat for Humanity’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
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