Habitat for Humanity seeks to raise profile

The Lebanon Area Habitat for Humanity hosted an informational fundraiser breakfast March 14 in an effort to raise awareness about what they do, and to raise proceeds for upcoming housing projects.

“Owning a home embodies the promise of individual autonomy, and is the aspiration of most American households,” said Judy Hill, the organization’s treasurer. “We’ve asked you here today because we are at a crossroads.”

Due to increasing regulations and rising costs, the board of directors is concerned LAHfH may not be able to continue unless they can build a solid donor and volunteer base.

“Sadly, in recent years, a number of changes have occurred that are making the old model of being able to construct homes inexpensively using volunteers and donated construction materials more and more difficult,” Hill said.

One obstacle is the cost and availability of land, she said. The average sale price of a home in Linn County last year was over $247,000, but families that earn as much as three times the poverty level ($25,750) would not be able to afford that.

During a period when Lebanon is experiencing a housing crisis, Tina Breshears, executive director of LAHfH, hopes to provide more housing opportunities for low income families. A high percentage of people in Lebanon are paying 50 to 60 percent of their income toward rent, and that’s too much, she said.

“The purpose of Habitat for Humanity is to build simple, decent homes for low income families,” Breshears said. “They have to be between the 30 to 59 percent of the area median income.”

LAHfH serves as far east as Cascadia, as far north as Scio, and down to the Halsey area, she said. Yet, many people still don’t realize Habitat is available to them.

Since 1993, LAHfH has built and remodeled 18 homes in Lebanon and nine homes in Sweet Home.

They currently have two properties in Sodaville which they will be building homes on and offering to qualified candidates, but there are no other lots “in the pipeline” for LAHfH at this time, Hill said.

“Unfortunately, we don’t build a house but every two to three years because land is a problem,” Breshears said. “It’s really expensive right now to find a piece of property. That is our biggest problem: one, trying to find property to build on; two, trying to find a family to qualify.”

About four years ago, LAHfH bought four houses in blight condition from a grant they received, and rehabbed them, Breshears noted. LAHfH also offers a “Brush with Kindness” service, which helps current homeowners with critical home repair and weatherization.

Homes and repairs are paid for by the homeowner, but are given special pricing based on their income. Homes are sold at no profit and with no interest, and buyers must complete a required number of hours of “sweat equity” (250 to 500 volunteer hours) before they can occupy the house.

Qualifed buyers are those who, despite a low income, must be able to pay a small mortgage, including taxes and insurance. Ideally that would be no more than 43 percent of their income, Breshears noted.

Candidates must also be able to demonstrate a need for housing, she said. It may be the family is homeless or living with another family, their rent might be “astronomical,” or their current home might be unhealthy (mold, poor weatherization, etc.).

Properties, supplies and services through LAHfH are funded by donations, grants, loans, homeowner mortgage payments and proceeds from the ReStore. Anyone wishing to become a donor or volunteer may contact Tina or Judy at (541) 451-1234.

Lebanon’s ReStore is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, at 566 Main St.