It’s Saturday at the Ranchettes and a host of volunteers are hammering and drilling with the enthusiasm that comes from making someone’s dream come true. The someone in this case is Rosita Rodriguez, who found out last summer that her application for a Habitat for Humanity home had been approved.
“This is one of the best things, aside from the birth of my children, that’s ever happened to me,” Rodriguez said.
The house is being built on land that’s been in her family for a while, she said. When it’s completed, she will live there with her mother and two sons. Habitat is a helping program but not a giveaway, according to Julie Farish, director of East Polk County Habitat for Humanity. Those chosen for a home must qualify according to HUD standards. Recipients must have income adequate to pay a mortgage, and the monthly payment must take no more than 30 percent of their income. “You have to be able to pay for a home,” Farish said.
The advantages of a Habitat home are many. The volunteer labor saves a massive amount on construction costs. There is no interest on the mortgage. The homeowner who receives help from others is able to give back by volunteering a minimum of 350 hours; at least 20 hours a month.
“That may not sound like a lot, but for a person sometimes working two jobs, as well as caring for family, that’s a big commitment,” Farish noted.
Rodriguez said the process of volunteering and attending required classes starts soon after approval. For example, participants attend the Dave Ramsey classes, which focus on bargain-shopping, budgeting, figuring out what’s important in your life, and other topics to help you be a better homeowner, Rodriguez said. She’s also completed about half of her volunteer hours, and now is assisting in the construction of her own home.
The house will be a four-bedroom with two baths, Rodriguez said.
“You get to choose everything, including siding, countertops, roof and colors, which is nice,” Rodriguez said.
Farish said that there are periodic informational meetings for those wishing to apply for a home. At one last month, 180 people were in attendance. The final decision is made by the Family Selection Committee, which review sthe applications, does home visits, and verifies income.
The volunteers are a giving group, who often have no skills coming in.
“They learn on the job,” Farish said, and she noted that it is a good opportunity to learn building and home improvement skills. Certain tasks, by law, must be done by paid skilled tradespersons.
In Farish’s words, “We don’t build a house for you, we build it with you.”