Did you know Habitat staff and our Family Selection Committee work behind-the-scenes for months with each Habitat family before the framing of their new home begins?
The story of every Habitat homeowner’s journey from dreaming of homeownership to receiving keys to their new home is one of persistence, hope and community!
Habitat’s Family Services Coordinator, Ryan Payonk, explained that one of his many activities involves giving presentations to community organizations. Meeting staff members of school districts, businesses, and affordable daycare and healthcare centers helps us identify families in need of safe and affordable housing. With recent COVID precautions, these meetings have made the switch over to mainly phone and zoom calls- but we continue to search!
Identifying a Family
Once a family chooses to apply for housing with Habitat for Humanity, every family is screened based upon our three criteria: need for housing, ability to repay a no-interest mortgage, and willingness to partner. Ryan reviews all submitted documents from prospective families and begins prequalification checks, such as a credit review and employment and landlord verification.
In addition to Habitat’s staff, there is a Family Selection Committee that helps to evaluate every family and ultimately made a final recommendation to the Board of Directors for approval.
Now comes the fun part: Telling the families they’ve been selected! That initial phone call is often a very emotional experience for us, and the families, “This is a new chapter for us,” explained Brandi, one of our 2020 partner families. “We applied twice and it has taken a year and when we finally got the phone call we knew our lives were changing!”
Once a family is selected Muncie Habitat begins the work of matching our new partner family to an upcoming build site and meeting their housing needs. In many instances, potential homeowners will pay less for their monthly mortgage than they pay in rent.
Along the way, the family attends meetings and education classes as they prepare for what it takes to become a Habitat homeowner.
Sweat Equity and Dedication Day
Habitat homeowners are required to invest at least 250 hours of volunteer work per adult in the family (maxing out at 500 hours) through helping Habitat with everything from working in the office to planning home dedication logistics. A minimum of 100 of those hours must be at the construction site for their home, or the home of a future neighbor.
The next step: the home dedication! The most exciting part of the journey is when they receive the keys to their new home.
When asked about his most memorable dedication, Ryan recalled the Dedication Parade thrown for Abigail Lyons. Typically, the dedication is a small get together inside the new house. However, to keep everyone safe during the COVID-19 pandemic we hosted a parade outside Abbie’s new home! We never want to stop celebrating a family’s hard work and accomplishments, even in a pandemic.
What About Those Not Yet Selected?
The journey to homeownership isn’t always easy. For instance, if a family does not meet initial requirements, they are recommended to a partner organization with the resources to help them towards their financial and homeownership goals. Sometimes families who receive credit counseling, or find more stability in their employment situation, apply again and are eligible for selection!
Why the Long Process?
You might ask why Habitat goes through this process to select and partner with families. Ryan shared, “We are an Equal Housing Opportunity provider, so we have a system in place to be sure that we are reviewing all applicants fairly. Additionally, we want to be sure we are finding partners that we believe we will be helping to successfully meet the challenges of homeownership.”