Habitat for Humanity Works to Build Housing for Loudouners


(Sunday, November 11, 2007 4:04 PM EST)

Loudoun County may be one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the nation, with a household median income of close to $100,000. But it is still home to residents who earn much less than this figure, and have a hard time making ends meet to live in the area.

Loudoun County's Habitat for Humanity hopes to help, and the organization's current project, the Mary Jane Jackson subdivision in the village of St. Louis, will provide five homes for households earning between $30,000 to $50,000.

“There is a huge need for affordable housing in Loudoun County,” said Loudoun Habitat for Humanity president Bud Green. “We're just a drop in the bucket.”

Habitat for Humanity bought the 2.5-acre piece of land in St. Louis about 6 years ago with funds raised by seven Middleburg-area churches.

Loudoun families who hope to own a Habitat for Humanity home are required to go through an application process that assesses their need and determines whether or not they will be able to hold their mortgage.

(The homes Habitat for Humanity builds are sold for about $100,000 with a 30-year, no-interest mortgage.)

Once residents are accepted by Habitat for Humanity's family selection committee, they become one of the organization's “partner families,” and the organization works with an architect to build the home according to the family's needs.

Energy efficiency and the environment also are important factors in the home design. All the homes are built to be energy efficient.

The partner families are required to put in 350 hours of work, or “sweat equity,” into their homes, and with the help of an all-volunteer crew (usually about 30 people) that works Fridays and Saturdays each week, the homes take about six months to complete.

Three homes of the five in the Mary Jane Jackson subdivision - named after a Habitat for Humanity supporter who died about a year ago - are close to the finishing stages of construction, and the hope is that the families will move in by the holidays.

Although a Habitat for Humanity mortgage works like a mortgage on a regular house, the organization provides additional assistance for the partner families once the purchase is completed.

“We assign a support person to them, and he works with them through the whole building process - budgeting, financing, monitoring their hours,” Green said. “Then, once we close, for the next year, this person works with the family as a kind of mentor.”

Although Habitat for Humanity has taken on a large part of the finances and workload necessary to build these homes, the community has played a significant part, as well.

One of the Mary Jane Jackson homes' construction has been fully funded by Neustar, a global communications clearinghouse, and another by Thrivent, a financial arm of the Lutheran Church. Banneker Elementary School also helps by providing lunch for volunteers.

“Everyone in the community are great friends,” Green said.

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