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Habitat for Humanity works on 54th house in area

After 30 years of building or fixing homes for people who might not otherwise be able to dream of owning their own home, the Greater Lycoming Habitat for Humanity is working on home number 54, this time in Newberry at 702 Diamond St.

The new owner, Stephanie, along with her two children, will occupy the home, her first, when it is finished, according to Kelsey Boyles, program director.

Built by volunteers, the latest build is a two-story. Plans for the new home were drawn up pro bono by local architects, Kyle Therrien and Jeff Parsons of the Larson Design Group.

“This project has been a great opportunity for us to share our professional abilities in support of an organization within the local community,” Therrien said.

Although Habitat for Humanity had purchased the lot on Diamond Street a number of years ago the group is just now developing it, Boyles said.

“There is an application process which is essentially multi-tiered,” Boyles explained. She added that applications can be obtained at the group’s ReStore or on their website.

“Basically there are several measures that people kind of have to fit into,” Boyles continued.

“It is low income based. We go by the HUD restrictions for income so they have to fall within a certain range. They have to have a clear need,” she said..

“If they’re spending more than 35 percent of their income on housing or if there are unsafe living conditions. If they are in too small of a house or apartment,” Boyles listed as some of the criteria for participation in the program.

And any applicant has to have the willingness to partner with Habitat with Humanity and a willingness to pay. Homes are offered at a 30-year zero per cent interest mortgage.

“It is an ongoing process that takes a year or more to build a house alongside us,” Boyles added.

And, importantly, the potential homeowner has to commit to sweat-equity, which can take the form of attending financial education classes, as well as actual hours working on the home.

The financial education classes teach the prospective homeowners how to be financially healthy moving forward.

“Also educating them as to how to take care of their home,” Boyles said.

“Part of the process of building the home is figuring out how things work from electrical to plumbing. What it means to fix minor wiring issues and just basic home maintenance. Part of this entire process is priming people for success as homeowners,” she added.

Volunteers are an essential part of the process. Twice a week, a crew of volunteers under the direction of Steve Hamm, the construction supervisors, works at building or rehabbing the homes for the new homeowners.

“Volunteer days are Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” Boyles said. “We require absolutely zero experience.”

She noted that people can just come to the volunteer site on those days, although they ask that volunteers sign up on the group’s website so that they know how many people to expect.

Hamm, who has been in construction and construction education teaches the volunteers what they need to do on any particular day.

Boyles stressed that the group can always use volunteers.

Funding for the projects at Habitat for Humanity is through federal and state sources as well as contributions through the community.

“That plays a big part in how we’re able to build homes,” Boyles said of the support of the community.

They also operate a store where donated items, such as furniture and construction materials can be purchased. The ReStore, as it’s called, helps to fund the work of the group through its sales. Pickup of items for donation is available, Boyles said.

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