Few, if any, organizations in Door County are more intimately involved with the affordable housing dilemma than Habitat for Humanity of Door County.
Since earning its nonprofit designation in 1993, the organization has built 38 affordable homes for low-income families on the peninsula.
To qualify, applicants must earn 60 percent of the median family income for their family size, have a need for housing, be able to pay a mortgage, and be willing to put 200 hours per adult into labor on their home, another home build or at the organization’s office or ReStore.
“That’s an opportunity for them to get involved in the project and to really get to know the volunteers that are helping build their home,” said Habitat Executive Director David Van Dyke.
Van Dyke said the affordability of the homes comes down to several factors: volunteer labor, efficient building methods, modest home sizes and zero interest loans.
“The other way we make our houses affordable is they are very energy efficient,” Van Dyke said. “The last I saw was on the energy audits for the house we just built and the estimated average monthly energy bill will be $177 so we exceed the Focus on Energy new home construction certification with energy efficiency.”
Van Dyke said that, in many cases, the cost of mortgage, taxes and insurance payments on a Habitat home for partner families is less expensive than what they paid in rent for an apartment.
With the income restrictions, Van Dyke admits there are residents who fall between the cracks. While Habitat for Humanity can’t directly help them, they can do so indirectly by increasing the “affordable housing stock” in the county.
“In the last year since I’ve been here, there have been the sale of two Habitat homes, which are nice, efficient homes and they’re affordable,” Van Dyke said. “They generally are going to be in the low $100,000-120,000.”
Families who sell their Habitat homes reimburse the program in full for their mortgages. These funds go into new housing projects for the nonprofit, helping them continue their mission of improving lives one home at a time.
“Owning a house has significant impacts on health, safety, welfare of the family, individuals and children,” Van Dyke said. “We’ve served more than 90 children since Habitat’s inception in 1993 here in Door County and that’s huge because those kids, we hope having this better start, will grow up to be productive members of society and hopefully give back and either be volunteers or contribute to Habitat in the future.”
For more information, visit DoorHabitat.org.