Habitat for Humanity Offers Vet & Senior Services
By Dianne Anderson
Seniors 50 or older who can’t afford a contractor or handyman to take care of their homes can now learn how to do it themselves.
It’s not quite an extreme fixer-upper makeover, but a Riverside Habitat for Humanity program’s two-hour free workshop could save a lot of money in the long run on the biggest investment of a lifetime.
The regular preventative home maintenance is part of the organization’s Aging in Place program, Here to Stay: Home Upkeep, and will help keep seniors’ homes in working condition.
Kathy Michalak teaches the class.
“We do 80 to 90 home repairs a year, almost all for low-income seniors,” said Michalak, executive director of Riverside Habitat for Humanity.
One elderly client they serviced is an example of just how ignoring a problem can cost a lot of money. He had a continual small leak under his fridge until eventually, the water line broke behind the wall.
The insurance told him that mold was not covered, and refused remediation. The local Habitat took on the job.
“What would have been a $250 repair when he first noticed ended up being over $15,000 to repair. He had to tear out almost the entire kitchen,” she said.
Habitat has a number of other projects in the works right now including a veteran’s build of 26 homes in Jurupa Valley in partnership with CalVet for military families. To qualify, applicants must be low-income veterans, honorably discharged, live or work in Riverside County.
“The city of Riverside is a functional zero for homeless veterans. They’re starting to coalesce around that this is everybody’s issue,” she said.
She is also excited about their other big Habitat project of ten tiny houses for the city of Riverside homeless population. About 400 square feet, the homes are built on slabs for the Housing First Program, featuring supportive wraparound services to help them prepare to move into permanent houses.
That project could house up to 20 individuals, husband and wife, or mother and child.
“It gives them a place to call home. If you’re homeless and you don’t have an address, you can’t even apply for benefits,” she said.
In San Bernardino, the local Habitat for Humanity program also keeps busy on smaller projects through its Brush with Kindness program. Volunteers go out to paint mobile homes for low-income seniors, who can’t afford to hire someone to do the job.
They also are preparing for a local build of three homes.
When it comes to home loans, coming in at the lower end of the pay scale is often considered a bad thing except with Habitat for Humanity.
Everyone can get a fair chance to be a homeowner. The organization is known for its no-interest mortgages, and affordable options for many first-time homebuyers.
“If they can’t afford a 20 or a 25-year term will look at 30 or 35, we’ve even done 40 years. We’re really flexible on how we structure the loans,” said David Hahn, executive director at Habitat for Humanity’s San Bernardino Area chapter.
Homeowners must be able to handle the principle payment, property taxes, and homeowners’ insurance, although it is much more affordable than typical loans.
Hanh said that different Habitat for Humanity offices calls for applications at different times, but all require that applicants live or work in the county where they apply.
Of those selected for a build, they are required to put in “sweat equity,” work on their own homes, and other people’s homes and projects, or they can also work at the Restore. A two-income family would be required to put in 500 hours. A one-adult family works 250 hours.
“They also have to make enough money to make mortgage payments. It’s not a home giveaway, they have to be able to qualify to pay the mortgage,” Hanh said.
San Bernardino Habitat has built homes every other year. Last year, they built two homes in Grand Terrace for families that moved in before Christmas. Next year, they hope to get the three homeowners into the homes before the end of 2020.
Early this month, they held a groundbreaking ceremony on 9th Street and H Street where the three homes will be built. December 10 was the deadline with selections to be notified by the end of February. He said those selected will have met the low-income criteria at 80% of the median income or less of San Bernardino County.
“Some people have never considered even getting a chance at being a homeowner until they get information like this on how Habitat makes it so much easier to become a homeowner,” he said.
For Habitat Riverside, see http://www.habitatriverside.org/
For Habitat San Bernardino, see https://www.habitatsb.org/