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Yes, it builds, but Habitat also restores

Organization provides range of helpful services

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Habitat for Humanity is probably best known for helping individuals become homeowners, but the organization also has a critical-repair program that can help struggling homeowners with repairs.

Mary Hunter, an 83-year-old retired Franklin Elementary School teacher, recently received help with repairs to the Rolling Meadows home her husband built almost six decades ago. Hunter has been living independently for more than two decades. 

“She still mows her own yard, which is really two lots,” said Gavin Baxter, homeowner services manager for the local Habitat chapter. 

Hunter was struggling to keep up with repairs on her home by doing the work herself, and after she found herself a victim of unscrupulous contractors, she became afraid to hire anyone. 

“Trust was an issue for hiring contractors,” said Jennee Galland, director of communications and events for Habitat.

Unfortunately that led to compounding issues. The original wood frames around her windows and sliding glass door to the backyard had begun to rot and water was getting into the house. Her front door was damaged and unusable after an attempted break-in. On top of that, honeybees made a home in a garage electrical conduit hole. 

Then she heard about the Habitat’s critical-repair program. 

Justen Stable with Goodall Homes partnered with Habitat for Humanity Williamson-Maury to make the repairs. Within six hours, Hunter had two new doors, repairs were made to rotted floor joists, insulation was installed in her attic and new, modern windows were installed. Also, a beekeeper removed the bees and the hole in the garage was sealed. The frosting on the cake was the face-lift they gave her landscaping.

“Mary said she was about to give up,” Baxter said. “The help she received from Habitat and other people renewed her spirit.”

Expanded role, options

The rising cost of homes and land on which to build has forced officials with the local Habitat chapter to think outside the box when looking to create affordable housing in Williamson County, said Wayne Weaver, director of homeowner services.

“The bottom side of the income range is getting squeezed more and more,” Weaver said. “People who were considered to have higher income now don’t have high enough income (to purchase a home) because of the rising cost of houses.”

Weaver recently became certified to offer USDA low-interest loans for Habitat homes with interest rates ranging from 1 to 3.75 percent, depending on the applicant’s income. Traditionally, Habitat homes feature zero-interest loans for lower income families, but with the rising the cost of building them, even with volunteer labor, the new certification allows Habitat to help more families, including higher income families. 

“If people thought Habitat for Humanity is only for poor people, we have other options as we expand our role,” Weaver said. “A single person making $59,000 a year can now qualify (for a Habitat home) with a USDA loan. That opens up the availability to serve families still struggling to buy a house in Williamson County or an older couple looking to downsize.”

For information about Habitat Homes, volunteer opportunities to work on a home, the critical repair program or Hammers & High Heels, go to hfhwm.org.

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