Now Available: Habitat for Humanity’s Home Repair Applications
Habitat for Humanity of Southern Ocean County’s board of directors put the finishing touches on the organization’s Home Repair Program application on Monday, Jan. 21. The two-page submission form is specifically geared toward local residents who suffered devastation to their houses from Superstorm Sandy and need help repairing those damages.
“It’s taken a little bit of time. While other Habitats do this kind of stuff, we’re kind of starting from scratch,” said Greg Muszynski, director of operations for the local nonprofit organization. “So I’ve kind of been looking around for best practices from other affiliates and trying to tailor them to what our capabilities are,” he added.
Specific eligibility guidelines apply for the program, including income level, the ability to repay, point of need and willingness to do the sweat-equity hours, or the time candidates devote to receiving the right to purchase their own homes.
The type of needed repairs is also an important factor, as the organization “does not want to bite off more than they can chew and end up not being able to deliver on what we promised,” Muszynski explained.
Individuals or families that fulfill all of the expected requirements will be asked to take part in a home visit with one of the institution’s construction committee personnel to make sure all qualifications match up.
“We’re going to try and focus on doing the most with what we have. So if we can take on smaller projects that might only take a week or two, we can help more people than if we were going to do kind of a larger project,” said Muszynski.
Though the organization’s primary focus is not centered on larger scale projects during the area’s recovery process at this time, Muszysnki said the group might opt to do so on a case-by-case basis.
Immediately following the storm, the group received calls from area residents who needed help with demolition projects. Muszynski said the organization wasn’t able to offer that type of assistance then.
“We are not first responders. We are the people that come in after everything begins to sort of settle back down,” he noted. “We tend to help the people who don’t necessarily have the resources to do it themselves, and people who may not have had flood insurance because they couldn’t afford it. These are people who generally do not qualify for traditional bank loans for repairs.
“Part of the beauty of this program, and Habitat in general, is that while we make mortgages, we are not a bank. If you run into trouble as a Habitat partner family, we are there to kind of help you out of that trouble as well. If you run into some financial difficulty, we want to be the first call you make because we’re flexible enough to try to help you through whatever problems you’re having. We’re not going to drop the hammer on somebody and say, ‘Well, you’ve to be out of your house, you missed a mortgage payment,’” he added.
Habitat for Humanity affiliates from Camden, Pennsylvania, Florida and Ohio have offered to help the local organization with the upcoming projects.
The home repairs will later coincide with a single-family house project in Ocean Acres, which the organization took on through an Affordable Housing grant it received from Stafford Township. The project is supposed to help fulfill the town’s Fair Share Housing obligations in accordance with the state’s Council on Affordable Housing requirements.
Information regarding the Home Repair Program can be found on the organization’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HFHSOC?fref=ts. Muszynski said he is hoping the area churches will also help spread the word.
— Kelley Anne Essinger