Habitat is building more than houses

The Bay County Habitat for Humanity is bringing the community together, one house at a time. The national arm of the organization is best known for new construction. But in the aging areas of Bay City and Bay County, the local chapter is also focused on revitalization.

Brian Krause joined the Bay County Habitat for Humanity as Executive Director in March. His goals include building in terms other than construction. Krause also wants to build, re-build, and revitalize Habitat’s relationship with the community.

“Upcoming plans are to get the community more involved and to help families to help themselves,” said Krause

Krause is focused on collaborating with local builders and organizations. Habitat has many plans to help grow housing availability in the region. The goal is to expand efforts by working with organizations in the area.

For the last five years, Habitat has worked with the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce’s Community Beautification Committee to revitalize the neighborhoods around the one-way streets of Thomas and Jenny. Many homes in that area are solid, but old.

Bay City’s housing market and property values have been in decline in recent decades due to shrinking population locally and statewide. Many neighborhoods have aged homes that are inexpensive to buy, but require extensive rehabilitation.

“Our plans are to be out in the community and help families with their dream of home ownership.” said Krause.

One of the greatest challenges for buying a home in Michigan is the cost associated with renovating older homes. The number of troubled or at-risk households in Bay City presents a struggle for the new homeowners. Home appraisals and loans often don’t cover for these renovation expenses – leaving market values lower because of the up-front money needed for necessary repairs.

Habitat for Humanity has been able to lighten that financial load and provide labor and repair skills training for qualifying homeowners. The group has led the revitalization of more than 120 homes since 2009.

To qualify for help, families must meet income requirements. Families must earn 60 percent below the Bay County median income of $45,983. Families also must demonstrate a need for housing and the ability to pay. New home candidates must contribute a minimum of 250 hours of sweat equity into their projects. Applicants are required to attend workshops for success in home ownership.

For home renovations, Habitat offers no-interest loans for the cost of repairs. The owner repays in monthly payments to the organization. Payments are based on income.

Habitat also builds new homes and offers no-interest mortgages that make property ownership more affordable. New houses built by the organization are as energy efficient as possible to keep utility costs low.

Bay County Habitat for Humanity places a great emphasis on flexibility and working with families to provide for their needs.

“It doesn’t matter what race or religion you are – sex, whatever it is, it doesn’t matter who you are, we come together,” Krause says.

Bay County Habitat for Humanity Board President Kathy Divine is excited about the ideas Krause brings to the organization. “We are very pleased and feel very fortunate to have him step in,” Divine says.

Habitat is always looking for sponsors and volunteers, noting that working within the community is a great team-building opportunity for companies and a way of connecting with neighbors.

“The thousands of people who’ve volunteered have the benefit of making a connection with the community,” said Bob Jarve, a Habitat for Humanity Board member and previous Executive Director.

You can contribute to the Habitat for Humanity by volunteering to work on future projects, as well as working in the office and warehouse. “No matter what your skills, we have a place for you to volunteer,” Jarve said.

Jarve works as a coordinator, along with Manager Beth MacKenzie, at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, at 519 Washington Ave. in downtown Bay City. The ReStore generates revenue for Habitat through the discounted sales of donated supplies. Click here to learn more about the ReStore.

The ReStore is another way to contribute to Habitat. ReStore volunteers not only raise money, they also gain work experience in a retail environment.

To apply for aid or to volunteer for Habitat, contact the Bay County office at (989) 895-0980. For upcoming events and announcements, click here to visit the group’s Facebook page.

 

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