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Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives! Housing costs continue to rise!

Building Homes, Rebuilding Lives!
Housing costs continue to rise!

Housing costs continue to rise faster than wages, resulting in families living in substandard housing, overcrowded conditions, or forfeiting income needed for food or medical supplies. Habitat for Humanity of Washington County addresses the need for safe, affordable housing as a basic necessity for every family.
When families apply to Habitat, part of the approval process includes a home visit from a member of the Family Selection Committee. Following are statements written at the time of those home visits. These examples are certainly not safe, affordable housing!
* Warped floors, broken windows & frames, no insulation, high heat bills, electric panel box condemned by the City.
* Family of 5 living in a 3-room house with no plumbing. Husband and wife sleep in living room with 2 daughters in bunk beds. Son sleeps in separate room. Health concerns due to lack of cleanliness and no indoor plumbing.
* Family with 4 children living in a 2 bedroom apartment. Converted a laundry room into a sleeping space. Neighborhood is drug infested.
* Very crowded living conditions; paying $450 per month.
* Aging mother (63) is caregiver for son (32) who is in a wheelchair. They live in a 2nd floor apartment with no ramps.
The national standard for affordable housing is no more than 30 percent of income. That means a person earning minimum wage should be paying no more than $286 a month for housing. Where can a hard-working family find a decent place to raise their family for $286 a month? Then think about the children who are living in those families: their neighborhood, their living conditions, and what kind of future they have.
Too often a low-income family finds a decent place to live but the cost is beyond the 30% of their gross pay. They try to make it, but after a couple of months where they can't make ends meet they have to move. The children change schools, neighborhoods and they never really get time to make friends, find mentors or feel secure. From this action other problems develop within the family and with the children. And the cycle goes on and on.
Many families are spending 25% to 40% of their income on shelter. Many families have little or no health insurance. The result is that families incur unmanageable medical expenses and just do not make enough money to pay for the necessities, their credit is affected and the cycle continues.
Habitat for Humanity teaches families how to manage their income and works with them to "chip away" their debt so that when they become approved for a Habitat house there are no judgments and subsequent liens against the property.
Habitat families put in 500 hours of "sweat equity" helping to build their house and other Habitat houses giving them knowledge about the construction and a greater sense of pride in their home. Children of the families are involved in the "sweat equity" through earning hours with report cards and working on the house if they are over 14 years old.
Families pay no-interest mortgage payments to Habitat. The Family Partners Committee has aided families in obtaining better paying jobs with medical insurance. Habitat families have been successful and some have gone on to take college courses.
For information how you can be a Habitat volunteer, call 301-791-9009.

William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.

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