We have received many applications over the years from deserving, hardworking families that are starting the path to homeownership. But who are these families, and how are they selected?
Green Mountain Habitat’s Family Selection Committee is a group of volunteers that come together to review applications for Habitat homes.
“As a social worker, I appreciated the value that decent and affordable housing contribute to happiness and wellbeing, yet the unattainable nature of home ownership for many working families in this market,” said Dawn Philibert, Board of Directors Vice President and Chair of the Family Selection Committee.
Dawn has been on the Family Selection Committee for over five years, and she has been Chair of the Committee for around two years. Over her time volunteering, she has helped 18 families achieve their dreams of owning a home.
The requirements for applicants are based on three criteria: they must have a demonstrated financial or physical need for adequate housing, the willingness to partner with Green Mountain Habitat, and the ability to pay for the mortgage and the other costs associated with homeownership.
The application process actually begins with the Champlain Housing Trust. They are able to determine if prospective families are able to meet financial eligibility criteria. For example, a household must have an annual income of below 80% of the area’s medium income, as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but they must be able to pay for the home’s mortgage, property takes, and insurance.
Champlain Housing Trust helps applicants become approved for a mortgage prior to partnering with Habitat. They help prospective homebuyers qualify through local lenders that Champlain Housing Trust works with.
Other requirements through Champlain Housing Trust include a Shared Equity informational meeting, a financial counseling session, and a Homebuyer Education workshop. These workshops are intended to prepare families for the homebuying and homeownership processes so that they can be successful.
Once Champlain Housing Trust determines that a family is eligible for a mortgage and is financially able to afford a Habitat house, the applicants are passed onto the Family Selection Committee. Committee members then reach out to the families and set up in-house interviews.
After the in-house visits, the committee members discuss the applicants and rank the families based on level of need. This process can be quite extensive, as many of the families that apply are often living in substandard, overcrowded housing. Many of the families are paying over 30% of their income towards housing costs, which is considered unaffordable by HUD.
Then, a family is selected, and a meeting is held to determine the family’s ability to contribute to their required “sweat equity,” which is 200 hours for a single adult and 400 hours for a couple. This can include volunteering in the ReStore or helping build the house, which involves over 300 volunteers for just one house.
Once the family has planned for their sweat equity requirement and is financially eligible, they are then approved by the Board of Directors.
“The most gratifying and inspiring part of this Committee’s work is calling a selected family to inform them that they have been selected. The gratitude, disbelief, and excitement demonstrated is worth a million dollars! This process changes families’ lives forever and gives them an opportunity to build equity,” said Philibert.
For our partner families, a Habitat home also means a place to come together as a family. One of Philibert’s most impactful stories is helping a family who were able to eat together at a table as a result of their Habitat home. Their previous house was so small that they did not have room for a table, so they had to balance their plates on their laps to eat meals. They are now able to eat at their dinner table every night, together.
“We have met many incredible families whose hard work and devotion amazes us. It is a privilege to get to know all of them and it very hard to not be able to select all applicants for a new Habitat home!” said Philibert.