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published: 9/6/13

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Habitat for Humanity

What is Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat for Humanity International (HFHI), generally referred to as Habitat for Humanity or simply Habitat, is an international, non-governmental, and non-profit organization, which was founded in 1976. Habitat has been devoted to building "simple, decent, and affordable" housing, a self-described "Christian housing ministry," and has addressed the issues of poverty housing all over the world.

The international operational headquarters are located in Americus, Georgia with the administrative headquarters located in Atlanta. There are five area offices located around the world: United States and Canada; Africa and the Middle East (located in Pretoria, South Africa); Asia-Pacific (Bangkok, Thailand); Europe and Central Asia (Bratislava, Slovakia); and Latin America and the Caribbean (San Jose, Costa Rica).

Community-level Habitat offices act in partnership with and on behalf of Habitat for Humanity International. In the United States, these local offices are called Habitat affiliates; outside the United States, Habitat operations are managed by national offices. Each affiliate and national office is an independently run, nonprofit organization.

Affiliates and national offices coordinate all aspects of Habitat home building in their local area, including fundraising, building site selection, partner family selection and support, house construction, and mortgage servicing.

The mission statement of Habitat for Humanity is "Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope". Homes are built using volunteer labor and are sold at no profit.[clarification needed] In some locations outside the United States, Habitat for Humanity charges interest to protect against inflation. This policy has been in place since 1986.

Qualifications for home ownership

According to the official website, the affiliate’s family selection committee chooses homeowners based on their level of need, their willingness to become partners in the program and their ability to repay the loan. Every affiliate follows a nondiscriminatory policy of family selection. Neither race nor religion is a factor in choosing the families who receive Habitat houses.

There are several checks and balances in place to protect both Habitat and the potential homeowner:

Habitat for Humanity performs an extensive background check on potential homeowners, including character references, employer interviews, and audit of finances. The applicants are required to sign release forms authorizing Habitat for Humanity to perform this background check. This ensures that Habitat's risk is reasonable when selling a home and that the applicant family is in a suitable financial position to take on the responsibility of a mortgage.

There are typically a First and a Second Mortgage. The Second Mortgage is typically the larger debt of the two and prevents the homeowner from being approved for any kind of equity loan or flipping the home. The homeowners pay down the first mortgage, and after twelve years of living in the same home, the Second Mortgage is forgiven. However, The Right of First Refusal stays in force until the mortgage is paid in full. In short, the home could be perceived as a locked in savings program of sorts.

Homeowners are usually expected to put approximately 500 hours of "sweat equity" into their own or other project homes, although this amount may vary by location, the number of wage-earning adults in each family, and the recipients' health issues. This sweat equity acts as the down payment on the home. Every hour spent earning this sweat equity must be approved and signed off on by an official Habitat for Humanity representative. Sweat equity has no monetary value and cannot be 'refunded'.

Once construction on the home is finished and the sweat equity is completed in full, the homeowners typically rent for up to six months. This is called a Tenancy at Will agreement and acts as a cooling off period. If the family can make the rent payments in a timely and consistent manner, Habitat will proceed with the mortgage agreement. Mortgage papers are typically drawn up as part of a 'pro bono' arrangement with a local lawyer.

Mortgage payments from homeowners are deposited into a locally administered "Fund for Humanity", the proceeds of which go toward future construction. In an effort to discourage predatory lenders from targeting Habitat homeowner families, mortgage agreements require the Habitat for Humanity affiliate the right of first refusal.

Until the mortgage is paid in full, a Habitat home has no equity and can only be sold back to Habitat for Humanity. Should a homeowner family decide to sell their home during the period of their mortgage, the affiliate will buy it back and return only the money that the homeowner has paid into the mortgage, but not the current market value of the home.

Though the home has no equity during the mortgage period, the typically no interest mortgage payments permit a family the freedom to manage their finances more effectively, the end goal being to provide a 'hand up' and not a 'hand out' as it were. In some locations, attendance at money management courses is mandatory for potential homeowners.

Building and other affiliate operations

At Habitat's Global Village and Discovery Center in Americus, Georgia, visitors can experience the devastating nature of poverty housing and see life-size Habitat houses from around the world.

Habitat relies on volunteer labor in order to construct simple and affordable homes with its partner families, as well as to build community and civil society in the areas in which it works.

Many churches and other houses of worship (synagogues, temples, mosques etc.) sponsor houses and provide a large amount of the volunteers from their congregations. Some corporations and businesses who value good corporate citizenship provide financial support to the projects and/or donate materials for use in construction. Many politicians and celebrities have volunteered with Habitat, reflecting its profile as a highly regarded non-profit.
Green building

Habitat builds simple houses with locally appropriate materials. In many communities, Habitat affiliates and national offices are exploring areas of green building, including energy efficiency and sustainability. In the United States, many affiliates are building homes that are LEED certified.[5] In 2010, Habitat for Humanity Tajikistan won a national Global Energy Award for their resource-saving bio-sand water filter project.


Habitat affiliates and national offices contribute a percentage of the funds they raise locally to be used in building homes by a Habitat national office overseas. For instance, Habitat New Zealand's tithe helps to support an equal number of housing outcomes abroad, predominantly in the Pacific region.

Charging Interest

Habitat homeowners in the United States and Canada pay no interest on their no-profit mortgages. Some Habitat for Humanity affiliates outside the United States adjust the no-profit loans to compensate for the inflation rate in their area, with the goal that "the repayments from one house should ideally build another house of the same design".

Habitat ReStores

Habitat ReStores are retail outlets that re-sell new and used building and household materials donated by large companies, job sites, and individuals. Proceeds from ReStores help local affiliates fund the construction of Habitat houses within the community. Many affiliates across the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand operate successful ReStores—some of which raise enough funds to build an additional 10 or more houses per year. Many ReStores cover the administrative costs of the Habitat affiliate so that 100% of donor funds can be put toward home construction and rehabilitation projects.

Ongoing programs

Habitat for Humanity International develops and supports special programs to engage volunteers from all walks of life in Habitat's mission and work.

Youth Programs

Habitat for Humanity's Youth Programs seek to involve young people, ages 5 to 25, in Habitat's mission and work. In accordance with U.S. federal guidelines, youth must be at least 16 years old to be on an active construction site, and must be 18 years old to engage in certain build activities.
Habitat's Youth Programs include programs such as:

Collegiate Challenge

Habitat for Humanity runs a year-round alternative break program known as Collegiate Challenge for student groups age 16 and up. Although summer, fall, and winter break trips are available, most participants go during their spring break. Collegiate Challenge participants travel to host sites throughout the United States and spend one week working in partnership with the local Habitat affiliate, the local community, and partner families to help eliminate poverty housing in the area.

Host affiliates provide housing for the groups, as well as a place to shower and cook meals for the week. More than 14,000 volunteers took part in Collegiate Challenge in 2011, making it one of the world's largest alternative break programs. Since its inception in 1989, more than 196,000 students have participated in Collegiate Challenge and have donated more than $19,400,000 to Habitat for Humanity affiliates.

Campus Chapters

A campus chapter is a student-led, student-initiated organization on a high school or college campus that partners with the local Habitat affiliate to fulfill the four functions of a campus chapter. The four functions of a campus chapter are: building, fundraising, advocating and educating. While Habitat is seen as a great organization to become involved in, some schools are discouraged from partnering with Habitat due to its religious aspect.

Youth United

Youth United is a Habitat for Humanity program run by youth and for youth ages 5 to 25. It brings young people together from all walks of life to play active roles in transforming their communities. Youth United mobilizes young people to sponsor and build a house with their local Habitat affiliate.

Learn and Build Experience

For one week during the summer, students ages 16 to 18 can experience Habitat’s work outside of their communities. In addition to a week of building, students will also learn about the need for Habitat through educational activities.

Global Village Trips

As suggested by the name, Habitat for Humanity International places a strong emphasis on building homes around the world. Volunteers today can build with Habitat affiliates in many locations on Global Village Trips. After having gone through training, trip leaders organize travel plans with the support of the Americus-headquartered Global Village Department, first formally established in 1988. Participants from all over are then able to register for trips to their destination of choice. Teams generally number between eight and fifteen, with trips usually lasting between nine to fourteen days.

According to the website, Global Village trips offer volunteers the opportunity to experience another culture while making a difference in the lives of alongside members of the host community in building decent, affordable housing... [and] help raise awareness of the burden of poverty housing and create a true global village of love, community, homes and hope.

Women Build

Originating in 1991 with a Charlotte, North Carolina, home built entirely by a crew of female volunteers, Habitat's Women Build program encourages women to make a difference by building homes and communities. Women Build projects provide an environment in which women can feel comfortable learning construction skills they might not otherwise have the opportunity to learn. Globally, more than 1,400 homes have been completed by Women Build volunteers.

Women all over the United States are participate in National Women Build Week. The week-long build leading up to Mother's Day is designed to showcase the skills of Women Build volunteers and to motivate new volunteers to help families and change communities.

Lowe's is a major sponsor and underwriter of Women Build, and has generously supported these efforts for many years. Lowe's has sponsored each National Women Build Week. In addition to competitive grant opportunities, Lowe’s also offers a series of free how-to clinics for U.S. Women Build affiliates.

National Service

National Service refers to national service programs that are funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. The goal of the Habitat for Humanity National Service program is to help local Habitat affiliates operate more efficiently and effectively by maximizing existing volunteers, increasing capacity for new volunteers and most importantly, meeting the housing needs of communities by building more houses for low-income families.

AmeriCorps is a network of national service programs that engage more than 75,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet critical needs in education, public safety, health and the environment. Habitat for Humanity International was one of the first nonprofits contacted by the Corporation for National and Community Service when AmeriCorps was being formed in 1993. In the 2008–2009 program year, over 500 AmeriCorps members at affiliates all over the country will help build nearly 2,000 houses and recruit and retain nearly 200,000 community volunteers. Those volunteers will provide an estimated 1,600,000 volunteer hours. The members themselves will contribute 850,000 hours.

RV Care-A-Vanners

RV Care-A-Vanners is a volunteer program in which volunteers travel in their personal recreational vehicles, making stops at local Habitat affiliates to assist in house construction and renovations. RV Care-A-Vanner volunteers each pay their own expenses, which may be tax deductible.

Many RV Care-A-Vanners help local Habitat affiliates raise the awareness of poverty housing and homelessness by speaking to churches, civic groups and local media. Individual Care-A-Vanners often make donations to their local Habitat affiliate and some even organize fund-raising teams and sponsor entire houses.

A Brush With Kindness

Habitat for Humanity's A Brush With Kindness is a locally operated program serving low-income homeowners who struggle to maintain the exterior of their homes. The program is a holistic approach to providing affordable housing and assisting communities as well as families. Groups of volunteers help homeowners with exterior maintenance. This typically includes painting, minor exterior repairs, landscaping, weatherization and exterior clean-up.


"Habitat for Humanity" Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (with minor edits), under GFDL.