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HARRISON – Most people across this nation are familiar with the Habitat for Humanity organization and its efforts to help families gain homeownership. It also is somewhat common to hear of such families accomplishing that goal through appropriate financial management and their own investment of sweat equity. Less commonly, a selected family is sometimes unable or unwilling to meet the required financial criteria or contribute that sweat equity – resulting in de-selection and the loss of that Habitat-provided opportunity.
Unfortunately, that is what has happened recently in Clare County, and now Habitat is seeking another family willing to meet the criteria for ownership of that house.
The house is a 1,000-plus square foot, three-bedroom ranch in Harrison with a view of Budd Lake.
“So, we’re looking for a partner family,” said Carey Harris, Clare County Habitat for Humanity’s executive director. “They’ve got to be willing to do their sweat equity and work with Habitat. We’re just trying to find a good family for the home.”
Harris said a prospective family would have to go through the homeownership counseling provided through the Michigan Community Action Agency.
“We put them through there,” she said. “They take that class on home ownership, budgeting, and knowing this home is theirs and once they move into it, that they’re responsible for maintenance and upkeep.”
The house comes with new, updated energy-efficient appliances: stove, refrigerator, washer and dryer, furnace and water heater.
“We try to make the house affordable, energy efficient and very well insulated,” Harris said.
Thus, the local organization is now taking Habitat Home Ownership Program applications. Harris said that to be considered, a family would have to earn at least $1,200 per month and be able to afford a monthly mortgage payment of $300-$600. That payment would include principle, interest, taxes and insurance. She said that Habitat tries to keep the total bills, including the mortgage payment, at no more than 45% of income.
“We do try to qualify,” Harris said. “We don’t do a credit score, but they’re getting more to the FHA standards. You can’t have any judgements or liens – credit will be looked at, but liens and judgements will need to be taken care of.”
To help those prospective homeowners who lack established credit, Harris said that Habitat can help them establish credit by creating what are called trade lines. That is done by looking at a 12-month record of paying phone, gas and electric bills.
“We’ve also teamed up with Chemical Bank,” she said. “We do what’s called a Credit Builder where they go to the bank and open a savings account, put in money each month, accumulate $1,000 and that becomes their down payment. And that becomes a credit line, too. There are ways to fix your credit, and we help with that, too.”
For more information, call the Clare County Habitat for Humanity office at 989-539-2481. Harris is in the office Tuesdays and Thursdays, but said callers may leave a message at any time, and calls will be returned as soon as possible.