Habitat for Humanity Orlando has found that widespread misconceptions persist about the non-profit and the nature of the work they do. For example, “Do people get the homes for free?” or, “Are Habitat owners on welfare?” These and other questions are answered below.
1. Misconception: Habitat gives houses away to poor people.
Fact: Habitat houses are not donated or “given” away. Habitat for Humanity builds houses for those in need and then sells the houses to homeowner partners. Because of Habitat's no-profit, no-interest loans, and because houses are built principally by volunteers, mortgage payments are affordable for those unable to obtain a home through conventional financing.
2. Misconception: Habitat homeowners are on welfare.
Fact: Typically, a Habitat homeowner’s annual income is less than 60 percent of local median income in their community. Habitat for Humanity works in good faith with people who often are at risk in society, understanding that owning a home is not the answer to every problem. However, it can be an important step – often the first step – toward helping people break the poverty cycle.
Partner families are required to invest an average 300-500 hours of “sweat equity” – time spent building their own home or other Habitat homes. Because Habitat houses are built using donations of land, material and labor, mortgage payments are kept affordable.
3. Misconception: Habitat houses reduce property values in a neighborhood.
Fact: Many studies of low-cost housing show that affordable housing has no adverse effect on other neighborhood property values. In fact, Habitat for Humanity believes its approach to affordable housing can improve neighborhoods and communities by strengthening community spirit, increasing the tax base, and building better citizens through the cooperative efforts involved in Habitat construction.
4. Misconception: Habitat only accepts applicants that have perfect credit or a certain credit score.
Fact: Credit history is important, but each case is reviewed on an individual basis.
5. Misconception: There is a waiting list to get a Habitat home.
Fact: Habitat does not have a waiting list. Homeowners must first complete their sweat equity hours (which can take up to a year or more), after which they are immediately matched with a home. Habitat Orlando has a number of home sites in its land inventory, and the pace of construction is determined by fund-raising and other factors. We attempt to build 15 homes or more each year.
Habitat is often confused with other housing programs such as Section 8 that normally have a two-year waiting list.
6. Misconception: Habitat homes are for families only.
Fact: Habitat for Humanity accepts applications for single adults and families of any size.
7. Misconception: Habitat owners cannot choose what house they want to live in.
Fact: Homeowners are allowed to select from different sites or units that Habitat is currently building.
8. Misconception: Habitat owners have to be pre-approved by a financial institution.
Fact: Habitat homeowners do not get approved by a financial institution. Habitat’s in-house Family Selection Committee completes all approvals.
9. Misconception: Habitat homeowners must stay in the home for 10-20 years and cannot resell the home.
Fact: Habitat partner families can sell their home at any time. However, if families used the Down Payment Assistance Program to buy their home, that program has a stipulation stating that if they stay in the home for 10 years (City) or 20 years (County), then the amount of $20,000 – $35,000 they received to purchase the home will be forgiven. If the home is sold before that time, families must pay back the funds in full.
10. Misconception: Habitat can help fix homeowners’ existing homes with volunteer workers.
Fact: Habitat does not participate in a housing repair program and therefore cannot improve existing homes.
11. Misconception: Habitat can build on land owned by homeowners.
Fact: If homeowners wish to build a Habitat home on their own land, they must first deed over the land to Habitat. Once this step is complete, Habitat can build the home in order to mortgage it and the land together.
12. Misconception: Habitat for Humanity is an arm of the government.
Fact: Habitat is a non-profit, Christian housing organization. It is neither an arm of the government nor an arm of any church or denomination. It does not accept government funds for the construction of new houses or for the renovation or repair of existing houses.