The three criteria to qualify for a Habitat home are (1) need for affordable housing, (2) ability to repay a Habitat mortgage and (3) willingness to partner with Habitat.
Need for affordable housing is defined by a family income that is below the government-set Income Cut-Off (poverty line) for their particular region, and existing living conditions that are inadequate in terms of structure, cost, safety or size. The ratio of shelter expense to total income is also factored.
Ability to repay a Habitat mortgage requires that the family have a stable income sufficient to cover the monthly mortgage payments and other expenses that come with home ownership.
Homeowners must demonstrate a willingness to partner with Habitat by contributing 500 hours of volunteer labour ("sweat equity") towards the building of their home.
How are families chosen?
Families are chosen on the basis of the above criteria. Family selection occurs at the local affiliate by way of an application process.
What do families contribute and what do they receive in return?
In addition to mortgage payments, each homeowner invests hundreds of hours of their time to assist in the building of their home. In return, Habitat homeowners are given the unique opportunity to buy a home through an interest-free mortgage thus gaining substantial equity they would not have if renting. They also acquire a safe, affordable place to live and the pride of ownership.
How do we acquire land?
Acquiring affordable land has been one of Habitat for Humanity's greatest challenges. Habitat seeks the assistance of governments at all levels in acquiring suitable donated or cost-reduced land. Habitat also relies on individual donors for land donations. In many cases, affiliates must purchase land.
How are the homes built?
Through volunteer labour, efficient management and tax-deductible donations of money and materials. Habitat builds simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner. Habitat houses follow standardized design criteria that maintain the "simple and decent" archetype.
Most Habitat projects are single dwellings or semi-detached homes, but Habitat for Humanity is expanding its build projects to include restoration and refurbishment, condominiums and town home style projects.
How does this program benefit the families and communities in the long run?
Over time, a family's equity in their home increases. Habitat families also often see an improvement in their financial situation since the percentage of their income being spent on housing remains at 30%. Prior to purchasing a Habitat home, many of these families are spending over 50% of their income on rent.
A safe, healthy living environment contributes to the positive growth and development of children. Habitat has recorded many examples of children within Habitat families becoming healthier, completing a post-secondary education and establishing successful careers.
Communities benefit as former renters become homeowners who contribute to the tax base. Habitat build projects also offer an opportunity for community members of all walks of life to come together and work side by side in a meaningful way.