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Dispelling myths of Habitat for Humanity

November 5, 2017 GMT

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976. Its mission is to create a world where everyone has a safe and affordable home to live in. This has molded Habitat for Humanity into the world leader in working to improve below-standard living conditions.

For more than 25 years, Habitat for Humanity of Utah County, an affiliate of Habitat International, has been improving the lives of individuals, families and communities in our local community. It has built new homes, renovated old homes and has spearheaded community enhancement projects, critical home repairs and home beautification projects across Utah County. Many lives have been improved due to their efforts.

Though this affordable housing organization has been around for more than 40 years, some myths about it have continued to propagate. Some have become confused and unsure who and what Habitat for Humanity of Utah County does. This article will dispel those myths and make the mission of Habitat for Humanity more clear.

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Myth No. 1: Habitat for Humanity gives our homes away for free.

Instead of giving away free homes, Habitat for Humanity of Utah County offers homeownership opportunities to families unable to obtain conventional home financing. Prospective homeowners are those whose income is less than 60 percent of the median income of the community and are living in some kind of substandard living situation.

In addition to an affordable down payment, Habitat homeowners contribute 350 to 500 hours of “sweat equity” on the construction of their home and/or in assisting with other Habitat projects. They must also take homebuyer education, home maintenance, life planning and leadership development classes.

“Through Habitat, I learned how to do everything from pouring cement to putting shingles on the roof, we did it all.” said Flora, a current Habitat homeowner.

Flora learned and loved the experience of working on her own home so much that she has gone back to school to become a general contractor.

“The experience with Habitat for Humanity is where I learned to build a house. It was really amazing and fun for me to be a part of,” Flora said.

Thanks to generous donors who provide land, materials and labor, mortgage payments on Habitat homes are very affordable. Homeowners pay less than 30 percent of their gross income and do not pay interest. Mortgage payments are made directly to Habitat with payments going towards helping other struggling families in our community.

Myth No. 2: Donations made to Habitat International are used for local home building efforts

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Local Habitat for Humanity affiliates act in partnership with, and on behalf of, Habitat for Humanity International. Habitat for Humanity of Utah County receives very little financial support from the international organization and relies heavily on local donations to carry out its mission here in Utah County. Donations made directly to Habitat International without being designated to the local affiliate are used for international building and other efforts and not to support local affiliates. Habitat International supports local affiliates in a variety of other ways.

“We rely heavily on local donors to help us with our affordable housing mission here in Utah County,” said Kena Mathews, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Utah County. “Donations come in all shapes and sizes. Habitat for Humanity of Utah County would love the people and communities of Utah County to donate locally via the Habitat for Humanity of Utah County website; habitatuc.org. As you donate locally, you’ll witness personally the impact you are making in the community.”

Myth No. 3: Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter founded Habitat for Humanity

Millard Fuller and his wife, Linda, started Habitat for Humanity International in 1976 in Americus, Georgia. President Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, have been longtime supporters and volunteers who help bring international attention to the organization’s housebuilding work. Habitat for Humanity should not be confused with the Jimmy Carter Work Project, which also helps to build houses and awareness of the need for affordable housing.

Myth No. 4: Habitat for Humanity homes reduce a neighborhood’s property values.

Extensive housing studies have proven that the affordable housing produced by Habitat for Humanity of Utah County has no adverse effect on neighborhood property values. To the contrary, Habitat houses have proven to increase property values and property tax income.

One study even showed that Habitat homeowners are more likely to be actively involved in their communities than the general population.

Myth No. 5: Habitat for Humanity is a government organization.

Habitat for Humanity of Utah County is a completely independent, nonprofit organization. They accept some indirect government funds and resources, but raise the vast majority of resources needed from within the Utah County community. They accept government funding as long as there are no conditions that would violate their ability to proclaim their Christian identity.

Habitat asks legislators and housing regulators to increase support for affordable homeownership and decent housing. They monitor public policies related to housing, community and international development. Habitat advocates for policies that will increase access to decent, affordable housing available to people around the world.

“Our mission is to put love into action by helping lift people,” Mathews said. “We foster hope, and unite diverse groups to improve the lives of individuals, families, and communities by building, renovating, and repairing homes.”

To donate, volunteer, or for more information, visit www.habitatuc.org