Habitat seeks family for homeHabitat for Humanity offered Machelle Palmi and her family a hand up 20 years ago in the form of a new home. She still lives there today.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Habitat for Humanity offered Machelle Palmi and her family a hand up 20 years ago in the form of a new home. She still lives there today.
“It’s been a huge blessing and I’m really grateful for it,” said the West Duluth woman. At the time, the family of six lived in a two-bedroom apartment, “trying to find some other option.” They qualified for the third Habitat home in the Twin Ports, which was also the local organization’s first new build. The zero interest loan and organization’s support gave the family the chance to step out of a rental situation and into home ownership.
“They were really great about having people work with us,” Palmi said. “They were realistic and supportive about the process.”
Now, Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity is hoping to find another family to help. A house supplied by Super One Foods rests at 708 Weeks Ave., in Superior, where foundation work is underway. Volunteers have lined up to help. The only part of the equation missing is an owner.
“When you’re starting to draw plans up and prepare for the remodel, it really helps to know how many family members you’re dealing with,” said Daryl Yankee, director of Western Lake Superior Habitat for Humanity. “We’ve been searching for a family since January.”
An upcoming orientation session planned for Sept. 19 may help connect the organization with a future homeowner.
“We know the right family’s out there,” said Deb Gonser, mortgage and accounting associate for the organization.
Habitat homes are not free.
“It’s a true mortgage, and you pay your mortgage and you pay your escrow,” Gonser said. “We basically just become the bank at that point.” But the no interest loan lowers payments, making the home more affordable.
The organization is looking for applicants who are earning between 30 and 60 percent of area median income. For a family of four, that computes to $18,700 to $37,380 per year. They must also have a 25 percent or less debt to income ratio.
“We want to help folks that really need it and are right on that edge of being able to qualify conventionally but just can’t get there,” Yankee said.
In addition, the family has to be willing to put sweat equity into the home — at least 200 hours. And they have to be ready to be good neighbors.
“We don’t want somebody to get into it who doesn’t understand all the responsibilities of home ownership,” Yankee said. “You’re going to need to get a lawnmower.”
If a light bulb goes out, or the refrigerator stops working, the homeowner will have to replace it.
The new homeowner must also be willing to commit to the area. A Habitat home comes with two mortgages — the second mortgage will be forgiven over the years, beginning in the fifth year of ownership.
The zero interest home loans can be for as long as 45 years, Yankee said, to make the payments more affordable.
There are 34 Habitat for Humanity homes in the Twin Ports area. Foreclosures do happen, but they aren’t common. Yankee said the national foreclosure rate for Habitat homes is 2.5 percent.
“We’re a real mortgage company but we’re also Habitat for Humanity, so we mix in a whole heaping ton of compassion and accountability,” he said.
The first step toward qualifying for the Superior home is to check the website, www.twinportshabitat.
org and click on the Homeownership with Habitat link under “Need a hand?” People can see if they qualify based on income and answer questions to see if home ownership would be a good fit for them.
The second step is to attend an orientation session like the one at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 19 at 1621 Broadway St. in Superior. Child care is available. To register or for more information, call the office at 218-722-3875 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.