New affordable homes and former President Jimmy Carter are what often come to mind when Habitat for Humanity International is mentioned or is in the news.
President Carter is often mistaken as the founder of HFHI, mostly because he and his wife, Rosalynn, have volunteered and supported the international organization since its beginnings.
In 1976, Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity near Americus, Georgia. The couple had a strong desire to address poverty, housing and equal opportunity, believing that “everyone deserves a decent place to live.”
Habitat now works in all 50 states across the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. It has helped more than 29 million people achieve strength, stability and independence through safe, decent and affordable shelter.
Since 1991, Habitat for Humanity of Utah County, as an affiliate of HFHI, has been building homes locally in partnership with families in need. In June, the affiliate began construction on its 76th home in Provo.
What many people do not know is that HFHI also builds community through neighborhood revitalization and home preservation. Today, critical home repair and aging-in-place projects are happening in tandem with new home builds at almost all Habitat affiliates, including Utah County.
HFHUC’s repair program, called A Brush With Kindness, has three components: home preservation, critical home repair and aging in place.
ABWK projects might include exterior work — such as siding replacement, roof and fence repair — or interior home repairs, such as plumbing and electrical. Aging in Place projects focus on accessibility for seniors and veterans, with projects that help them live and age safely in their homes.
“At Habitat, our goal is to improve lives,” said Alan Hill, executive director of HFHUC. “But not everyone needs a new home. Sometimes people need help with accessibility. A ramp or strategically added handrail or grab bar can make all the difference.”
The ABWK Repair Program is similar to the affiliate’s housing mission in that homeowners must qualify based on income, need and willingness to partner.
This means total household income must be under 80% Area Median Income with repairs that will alleviate health, safety and accessibility issues. Also, 10 hours of “sweat equity” must be completed before the start of the project. Sweat equity is a core tenant of Habitat’s belief in “hand up and not a handout.”
Like its housing mission, ABWK projects are affordable. A project fee, calculated at 10% of the total project cost, will be assessed and collected. Project fees will be recycled into future projects, helping more homeowners in our community.
“Many projects come to us through referrals from agencies such as the United Way or Ability 1st Utah,” Hill said. “But often, a neighbor, a friend or a family member is the first to notice that someone needs help with their home or with accessibility and will refer them to us.”
In addition to new affordable homes and the Carters, Habitat for Humanity of Utah County hopes that helping existing homeowners in Utah County with repairs, home preservation, and aging in place will come to mind.