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Habitat for Humanity of Addison County searches for families to fill homes

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 3:41 PM EDT
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VERGENNES, Vt. (WCAX) - Since 1999, Habitat for Humanity of Addison County has helped families build their perfect home at a price they can afford. But even during Vermont’s housing crunch, they’re struggling to find candidates to fill the homes.

In just a few years, the lots in Vergennes’ Booth Woods development will be full of Habitat for Humanity homes. But first, they need to find families to fill them.

In just a few months, a family with three kids will move into a brand new, solar-powered home with three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths in a quiet Vergennes neighborhood. It’s a nearly perfect fit.

“Whatever they need, we want to make sure the house fits them. And not have to shoehorn them into something that isn’t just perfect for them,” Margaret Carothers said.

Carothers is a founding board member and helps with the family selection at Habitat for Humanity of Addison County.

She says this family will pay about $175,000 for their home after grants and volunteer labor, thanks to the Habitat for Humanity team.

The nonprofit helps put families with modest income in sleek, affordable homes, and has four lots to build homes for families surrounding this one.

But, they can’t seem to find families to build the homes for.

“Our biggest roadblock is people’s imagination of what they’re capable of,” Carothers said.

There are a handful of requirements to be considered. You have to have lived or worked in Addison County for at least a year. They won’t build a one-bedroom house for a couple or a single person, these are for families. And there is an income requirement.

“Say for a family of four, we’re looking somewhere between $40,000 and $60,000. That’s not a lot of money, but it’s doable for a house like this. Very doable,” Carothers said.

What makes it different than a regular real estate sale is that Habitat for Humanity acts as the bank. You need to be able to make the $500 down payment and cover taxes. But the biggest thing is that there’s no interest.

“Knock the interest out, you’re down to about $850 a month, which is less than a lot of people pay for much less house than this,” Carothers said.

So why the lack of families? Carothers says they’ve always had this problem. She says people in that income bracket usually are living paycheck to paycheck. They keep their heads down and make ends meet.

“We need to be able to reach people and say to them, ‘Pick your head up and look! We can do this with you, not for you, but with you. It’s possible to own a house,’” Carothers said.

Even rejected applicants can get help and reapply.

Once you’re approved, you’ll need to volunteer about 400 hours of your time to the build.

“Most of it is here, this is actually being painted right now by the family that’s going to be moving in here,” said David Furney of Habitat for Humanity of Addison County.

Something many would consider a small price to pay for accessible homeownership.

Habitat for Humanity is nearing the final stages of the first home build on the Booth Woods development. The house being worked on is set to be done in May. I’m also told these volunteer crews can turn out a house in about a year.

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