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Sholten Singer/The Herald-Dispatch Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity Resource Development Manager Dayna Carter on Tuesday, April 23, 2019, in Huntington. Thanks to an anonymous and generous donor, the Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and administrative office building will soon run entirely on solar energy.

Guess who has been building new homes throughout the city of Huntington and Cabell County year-round for more than 29 years? Since our founding in 1990, Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity (HAHFH) has been bringing people together to build homes, communities and hope by partnering with qualified families, providing them the opportunity for safe, affordable and decent housing.

So what does that mean for our community?

In simple terms, it means that we have completed 110 new homes that have benefited 356 individuals, with 208 of those being children. Each one of these homeowners purchased their homes from our affiliate through a no-interest, no-profit mortgage. That's right - they weren't given a home; they bought it. Not only did they agree to pay back their mortgages, they also donated hundreds of volunteer hours that we call "sweat equity" before their homes were complete.

Habitat homeowners who live within the city limits have their property taxes, homeowner's insurance, refuse and municipal fees escrowed into their monthly payments, so as soon as they close on the purchase of their homes they become tax-paying citizens. In 2018, Habitat homeowners paid to the city of Huntington and Cabell County a combined $8,425.97 in municipal service fees, $11,100 in refuse fees and $24,219.24 in property taxes.

Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity is the largest purchaser of vacant property through the Huntington Land Reuse Agency since the city began returning tax-delinquent properties to productive use in 2009. As the city demolishes dilapidated structures, HAHFH will continue its mission to transform these vacant properties into new houses with tax-paying citizens, creating robust, revitalized neighborhoods that will increase property values, improve safety and encourage growth and stability in our community.

According to Habitat for Humanity International, in West Virginia one in 11 households spend more than half of their income on housing, making them severely cost-burdened. In Huntington, nearly half spend 35% or more of their income on rent. To put that into perspective, the average fair market rent in Huntington (metro area) for a two-bedroom apartment is $734. Conversely, the average monthly payment for a two-bedroom Habitat home is $325.

Our homebuyers fall within 30-60% of the average area median income and are a mix of single individuals, married, grandparents and guardians with 75 percent having at least one child at home. They are in the income situation where they make too much money to qualify for assistance and too little to qualify for a traditional bank mortgage. This is where the Habitat motto "A hand up, not a hand out" comes into play. Our homebuyers aren't looking for a giveaway; they just need a little help to get them started on the path to homeownership.

Our Habitat homes vary in size from a one-bedroom, 600-square foot floor plan with one bathroom to a 5-bedroom, 1,440-square foot floor plan with two bathrooms. Since 2010, all Habitat houses are built to U.S. EPA Energy Star Certification standards, and each home comes equipped with a new energy efficient HVAC system, stove, refrigerator and washer and dryer.

On average, it takes about 2,000 volunteer hours to build one Habitat home, and our affiliate is fortunate to have a group of 20 regular volunteers, as well as groups and individuals who volunteer throughout the year. We purchase our construction materials at a discount when possible, and some supplies are donated so this savings, along with the volunteer labor, allows us to build our homes at a significantly reduced price per square foot.

The low cost of building an energy-efficient home combined with a no-interest, no-profit mortgage makes a Habitat home the perfect solution for individuals or families who are ready for the opportunity to become homeowners. Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity is proud to have been a leader in building affordable homes in the Huntington area for nearly 30 years, and we're excited to continue to play a role in the revitalization of our city for years to come.

For more information on Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity, visit us at www.hahabitat.org, follow us on Facebook or call 304-523-4822.

Dayna K. Carter is resource development manager for Huntington WV Area Habitat for Humanity.

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