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  • Jack H. Bender

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity

Recently I attended the upbeat Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity annual luncheon held at Holland’s DoubleTree’s Conference Center. LHH is the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Introductory remarks included statements about Ottawa County properties having insufficient plumbing and overcrowding. (For details, see next to last paragraph.) Good news immediately followed. Families that transition from unstable housing environments to stable ones experience greater student success at school and adults increase their productivity at work.

When the print media reports that a family has just settled into their Habitat home, readers call Habitat for Humanity and inquire about a FREE home for themselves. Not so fast! Much is required of families that are selected (see last paragraph). The zero-percent mortgage funded by Habitat for Humanity (never a standard commercial loan) is never more than 29% of a family’s income. National foreclosure rates average between seven and ten percent while Habitat foreclosures are under 5%.

The luncheon celebrated its approaching 150thhome completion in June and Roger Cruz, its owner, described the path to his family’s new home. Cruz’s family had rental experiences in Chicago and that of living with in-laws before applying for a home. Reaching their goal of home ownership has encouraged the family to consider other goals. Cruz remarked that, with the help of others, his family has “created a place to dream.” That’s an incredible testament to the impact of Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity.

Maybe it’s the sweat equity that encourages families to remain in their Habitat home. Whatever the reason, families nationwide stay in their homes on average of thirty years. The local landscape is similar. Executive Director Don Wilkinson knows of no one planning to vacate their home.

While Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity has averaged 5.1 homes per year for the last 29 years, Wilkinson and the board has set a long-term goal of twelve homes a year and then twenty-four. The plan to get there is certainly worth learning about. Stay tuned.

For those who like details:

Ottawa County Housing Needs Assessment released December 2018: More than 1,100 housing units in the county are considered “substandard.” Based on ACS 2012-2016 estimates, at least 644 renter-occupied and 255 owner occupied housing units in the county lack full indoor plumbing in their kitchens or bathrooms and 756 renter-occupied and 1,104 owner-occupied units are overcrowded. As a result, it is clear that many households are living in housing conditions that are considered to be below modern-day housing standards. Housing policies and strategies for the county should include efforts to remedy such housing

Lakeshore Habitat for Humanity Home Ownership Requirements

Lakeshore Habitat selects future homeowners through a stringent process from a pool of qualified applicants and provides them with financial education to prepare them for successful home ownership. Through the curriculum, future homeowners learn financial skills such as budgeting, credit management, and financial decision making to increase the likelihood of long-term financial success. It is important to note that while our future homeowners meet our requirements and go through a rigorous process, none of them are eligible to receive mortgages from a conventional lender due to a variety of financial constraints. Once matched with a property, our future homeowners complete “sweat equity” hours in the office, the ReStore and building their home alongside our volunteers, under the supervision of a licensed site supervisor (500hrs for a two adult household and 250hrs for a single adult household).


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