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How the Habitat program works in the Fort Hood Area

Habitat for Humanity


Habitat for Humanity was formed by Millard Fuller in 1976 and although there are over 2,000 affiliates throughout the world, each affiliate is an independent entity with its own policies, procedures and organization.  The description below is of the Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity, Inc.  Our polices, procedures and organization follow the basic mold of most Habitat affiliates, however, it should not be assumed by the reader that all Habitat affiliates operate the same way.  There are often great differences between affiliates, especially relative to their size and the size of the communities they operate in.

The way that the Fort Hood Area Habitat for Humanity program works is first we select low income families for whom we want to build a home.

The family selection process begins when a potential family contacts us.  Their name and address is recorded and they are sent a brochure on how to become a Habitat homeowner.  When we have another selection process, once or twice a year, we mail a notice to each of these families.  Families first come to a briefing on the Habitat program and its requirements.  In order to qualify for a Habitat home the family must meet three requirements:

1.  Be low income, yet have the ability to pay the mortgage.  The family’s income must be between 25% and 50% of the local median income as defined by the Federal Government’s Office of Housing and Urban Development.  The minimum requirement is in place to ensure that the family will be able to repay the initial cost of the home.  The upper limit is in place because there are many other programs available to families that make more than 50% of the area median income.
2.  Where the family lives now is inadequate.  Inadequate is a measure of their current living conditions and many factors are taken into account; utilities, structural safety, overcrowding, etc…
3.  Willingness to partner with us to build homes for other families.  Each family must perform a certain number (300 minimum) of “sweat equity” hours.  The number of hours is 300 hours plus 50 hours for each family member 16 and over.  The family must complete their “sweat equity” hours before work will begin on their home.  The next family to get their “sweat equity” hours done goes next on the waiting list to get their home.

If the family meets the above condition then they are given an application.  The application is as thorough as any traditional lenders application.  The application is reviewed and verified by our Family Selection Committee.  The Family Selection Committee also does credit checks and does a home visit to verify the family’s living conditions.

When the Family Selection Committee completes its review of the applications, the committee presents the applications (anonymously) to the Board of Directors who votes whether to accept the family or not.  The Board may select the family, not select the family, or conditionally select the family.  There is no quota on the number of families that will be selected.  The Board may select any number of the applicants.  The applicants are not in competition with each other in any way.  The amount of land we have, the amount of money we have, and the number of homes we intend to build has nothing to do with the selection process.  The only question to decide is if we want to help this family.

Once families are selected, then the many other committees and staff begin to do their work.  The Family Nurture Committee becomes the liaison between Habitat and the family.  The Habitat staff begins to work out the details of scheduling and budgeting for the number of homes needed.  The Fund Raising Committee identifies the amount of funds needed and develops fund raising techniques to raise them.  The Site Selection and Construction Committee obtain building lots and work out construction schedules.  The Public Relations Committee raises community awareness and helps the other committees publicize their efforts.  The Church Relations Committee determines, in conjunction with the other committees, which of the homes they’ll support and work on.

The Fund Raising Committee is perhaps the most critical issue.  The single greatest controlling factor in how many homes we build is the amount of funds available to us.  We raise money through donations from individuals, businesses, churches, civic organizations, fund raising events and charitable foundations to fund the initial cost of building a home.  We also try to reduce the cost of building by getting materials and/or services donated.

The family must complete their initial “sweat equity” hours before their home is begun, and must also be present during every day of construction on their home.  We build a home in 12 days.  No contractor in the nation will agree to build a home in 12 days… but we do.  Now, of course, since we do it with volunteer labor, we only work on Saturdays, so it’s 12 Saturdays, which is 12 weeks.  But, it’s still 12 days of construction.

Once the home is complete it is sold to the family, like any other home, and they pay a zero interest mortgage to Habitat.  The money obtained by Habitat, through the mortgage, is put back into the program to help build other homes for more families.

The volunteers who help to build the Habitat homes are a key reason we are able to keep construction costs down.  The single greatest cost of building a home is labor.  Depending on the size of a home, labor adds at least $20,000.00 to the cost of a home and can be many more 10’s of thousands depending on the size and style of the home.  By using both skilled and unskilled labor, Habitat is able to save these costs.

A Habitat worksite is much like an old style barn raising where members of the community come together to help a member of the community.  The unskilled volunteers learn from skilled volunteers.  We break for lunch and then keep on going until the last volunteer is too tired to go on.  It is a great day and everyone enjoys the experience.  Many of the unskilled volunteers return week after week to learn the building trade so that they may work on their own homes.