Get those applications in

Published 8:37 pm Thursday, June 23, 2016

A vacant Habitat for Humanity house helps nobody — not the neighborhood it’s in, not the generous people who took their time to help build it and not the people that could be living in it.

On the other hand, a Habitat for Humanity house that becomes a home for a deserving, hard-working family can lift up not only that family but also the entire community.

Nine houses are built or under construction on Lake Kennedy Drive near its intersection with White Marsh Road. The land was formerly owned by the city and was rezoned for the project in 2013.

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However, for those nine houses, only one new homeowner has been approved.

That one homeowner, Rosa Steward, was positively giddy on Wednesday, when Habitat and city officials held a press conference to seek applicants for the other eight homes.

She posed for photos in front of her brand-new home, windows still shiny and siding still gleaming. She appeared ready to jump out of her chair with excitement during the press conference. She talked excitedly about the day, which she anticipates very soon, when she will be able to move in.

But for all Steward’s excitement, she was the only one. It seems that when she moves in soon, she’ll be sans neighbors for a while.

Habitat for Humanity South Hampton Roads Executive Director Brad Kirkpatrick said only about one in every 10 or 15 applicants meets all the criteria.

The process includes a credit check, which can be a difficult thing to pass for someone who has relatively low income. Families also must meet income guidelines, based on family size, and must be willing to put in “sweat equity” — 250 to 400 hours helping build their own and others’ houses. The families also must be in need of housing — in other words, they’re currently living in transitional housing, housing that has sanitation problems through no fault of the homeowner, in housing that is too small for their family, in housing that presents accessibility problems for their disability, or some other issue.

Kirkpatrick said a common misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that the houses are free. In reality, Habitat homeowners pay a mortgage just like everybody else. However, because the mortgage is no-interest and because the homes are built with a lot of volunteer labor rather than by a for-profit company, the mortgage payment is only $650 to $750 — less than many Habitat families were paying in rent before they became homeowners, Kirkpatrick said.

Habitat has worked in South Hampton Roads since 1988, building or rehabilitating more than 210 homes and putting families in each and every one of them.

It has worked in Suffolk, too. A blitz in 2008 built 16 homes in North Suffolk’s Huntersville neighborhood. Single Habitat houses here and there dot the map of Suffolk.

Now that the Lake Kennedy project is under way, everyone wants to see it succeed. So check out the Habitat website at, and see if you think you meet the criteria. If you do, there’s no reason not to apply.