Habitat for Humanity offers way to own a home

Source: The Wenatchee World

WENATCHEE — They won’t be home for Christmas, but Ashley Schell and her young son hope to be able to move from an apartment into their own home in a couple of months.

There’s a lot to do before that. Schell, 28, holds down a job working with adult handicapped people, attends Wenatchee Valley College at night to earn her Associate of Arts degree, and, as a single mother, cares for her 5-year-old son, Marques, who is autistic.

In addition, Schell will volunteer 300 hours of what’s called “sweat equity” in order to buy a renovated Habitat for Humanity home on Walker Street. Some of those hours will be working on the house, which was originally built by the nonprofit organization in 2009. She’ll also volunteer her time working at the Habitat for Humanity Store at 619 S. Wenatchee Ave.

Habitat for Humanity is one of 25 nonprofits to receive grants this year from the Community Foundation of North Central Washington. The nonprofits are also part of this year’s Give NCW crowdfunding campaign to raise more funds for their good work. Habitat for Humanity builds affordable homes to sell to qualifying families who are willing to help build or renovate a house and maintain low-interest payments. The Give NCW donations will be used to buy materials for two future houses to be built in Rock Island.

Schell said she keeps a busy schedule, but it’s all worth it if it results in getting to move into her own home.

It’s hard, but I make it work,” she said about juggling her time to fit it all in. Marques goes to therapy classes during the day now, which frees more time for her work and volunteering. Her parents help out watching Marques when she attends night school.

Her son’s autism makes it hard for him understand or fear heights. The three-level apartment they live in now puts him in constant danger of a fall. She applied for a Habitat for Humanity home on the recommendation of her sister, who purchased a home through the organization several years ago. Schnell helped work on that house and helped her sister move in.

Most often, qualifying applicants are similarly involved in actual construction of their homes, said Natalie Narby, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of the Greater Wenatchee Area. The Walker Street home was built in that way. The purchaser, however, a single mother with a blind daughter, decided to leave the home and the area to enter her daughter in a school for the blind in California, Narby said. Because she paid the mortgage for such a short time, she signed the deed back to the organization so they could make improvements and then resell to another family, in this case Schnell.

Applicants must have compelling need, a steady job or other ability to qualify for a home loan and be willing to work with other volunteers under a experienced and paid construction manager to build the home. Families and single parents with children are favored. In this case, Schell will help with the renovation and work at the Habitat for Humanity Store, formerly known as the Purple Door. The store sells recycled home construction materials.

New homes built with volunteer labor are not as cheap as they once were, said Narby. It’s difficult to find affordable land in this area. The cost of developing raw land with utilities is cost prohibitive. Ready to build lots sell quickly. The organization is seeking $20,000 in donations now to purchase materials that will get them started on two lots in Rock Island that will come available early next year, she said.

We aren’t selling houses for $40,000 anymore,” said Narby, explaining why there isn’t a long waiting list for homes. The cost has greatly increased since the early 1990s when the first Habitat for Humanity homes were built in Wenatchee. Houses that cost between $110,000 and $120,000 now cost $150,000 to $170,000 to build, she said.

After the mortgage crisis of a few years ago, it’s much harder for families with blemished credit records to qualify for a loan, she added.

Still, the organization has a good record of success. Some 53 homes have been built in the valley since 1990. The organization holds mortgages on 34 of them. The others have been paid off. There have been no foreclosures. A few people have resold their homes to move on, mainly single women who have married.

Situations can change for anyone. But most have stayed,” she said. “We want to help as many people as we can.”

Give NCW

Give NCW is a crowdfunding campaign partnership spearheaded by the Community Foundation of North Central Washington to raise money for 25 area nonprofits.
The Community Foundation recently awarded the 25 nonprofits a regional impact grant — but not the entire amount that each group requested to complete its stated project.
Give NCW invites the public to learn more about the nonprofit work in the community and help complete these projects by donating. Visit GiveNCW.org to view the online grant catalog and donate electronically.
The Give NCW campaign will continue through the end of the year.

Ashley Schnell dusts furniture on her first day of volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity store in Wenatchee Thursday. She is fulfilling part of her contract that requires her to volunteer 300 hours for Habitat for Humanity, 100 of which can be working on the home she will be buying through the program.