Fort Wayne Habitat for Humanity is thinking big.
The faith-based nonprofit has had a presence in Fort Wayne for the last 26 years, building 167 homes over that span of time, with the goal of allowing qualified buyers of low-to-moderate income the opportunity to fulfill their dreams of homeownership. The homes were scattered throughout the city, however, primarily in the southeast quadrant, as Habitat for Humanity procured lots or properties that could be rehabilitated.
On Tuesday, however, Habitat for Humanity will break ground on its most ambitious project yet: Fuller's Landing, a 120-home subdivision on the northwest side, just west of the Raven's Cove subdivision on Cook Road.
The groundbreaking is set for 1:30 p.m., as Habitat for Humanity will begin building the model home for the subdivision in September.
Fuller's Landing will contain three models of home, featuring designs of one, one-and-a-half, and two-story floor plans with a minimum of three bedrooms in any design. The homes will also have two-car garages, according to information provided by the nonprofit.
The subdivision will be built over the next five to seven years, according to Justin Berger, the executive director of the nonprofit. The homes will be built at costs ranging from $60,000 to $65,000, due to them being built with donated materials and labor that includes a healthy dose of volunteerism, in order to keep the monthly payments for the homeowners at $500 per month, including escrow. However, Berger said the homes assess for as much as $115,000.
The nonprofit will serve as the builder, developer and mortgage lender for the subdivision, as well, meaning that Habitat's application and training processes will be in effect, including the homeowner "sweat equity" that means the buyer will perform 300 hours of community service, as well as attend multiple classes on financial literacy and sustainable homeownership.
All of those factors are important, because according to Berger, that intense preparation and buy-in from the buyers has led to the nonprofit seeing only seven foreclosures in the 167 homes they have previously built, with 90 percent of the buyers current on their mortgages.
Of note, as well, are some misconceptions about Habitat for Humanity that should be dispelled:
The nonprofit does not "give away homes for free" - buyers have mortgages and must have jobs, as well as pass credit and background checks, and the homes are not subsidized housing along the lines of Section 8.
So what is Habitat truly doing? As Berger explained, sometimes people of low-to-moderate income get stuck in the cycle of renting, which means that instead of creating their own wealth by owning property, they are contributing to the wealth of others.
As a result, those individuals tend to move more, creating less of a bond with the community and other people and, if they have children, depriving them of the stability that anyone should crave -- Berger cited studies that children who grow up in stable homes are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school and twice as likely to get post-secondary education.
"We thought it was time to invest in people," Berger said. "A project like this...this could be the best opportunity for families (who meet buying criteria). Doing something like this allows us to invest in school systems, to invest in ourselves, because these are homeowners who will be paying taxes every year."
Berger said that six families have already been selected to begin the application and training process, with home construction likely to begin around May of 2014. Prior to then, Habitat for Humanity will hold a "Backyard BBQ Fundraiser," at the Fuller's Landing site, so the community can see what the nonprofit is building and, perhaps, donate to the cause.