Sisters Habitat expands services


Last updated 10/24/2023 at 9:58am

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Edward Jones employees staged a landscaping day in support of Sisters Habitat for Humanity last week.

Peter Hoover has been appointed permanent executive director for Habitat for Humanity, having served as its local interim director for the past several months. At the same time, the Sisters affiliate of the international organization, which works in all 50 states and more than 70 countries and has helped over 46 million persons with affordable shelter, is seeking to reshape its purpose.

Habitat is best known for building homes with volunteer labor and donated supplies or reduced-cost materials. Its Thrift Store and ReStore in Sisters are also highly visible entities in the community. Hoover and Habitat's board are now looking at programs and services to round out the primary mission of providing affordable housing.

"We already have an active program to repair and rehab affordable homes in Sisters," Hoover said. "Most people don't know that."

In 2013, Sisters Habitat incorporated home repair into its mission of helping others, and since then has repaired a number of homes in the area. "Some of the areas where Habitat can help are in roof repair, weatherization, adding ramps, replacing window, and exterior painting," Hoover elaborated.

Moving forward, Sisters Habitat, with 250-plus volunteers, is setting its sights on the broader aspects of home ownership.

"There's a common misperception that Habitat donates homes to its occupants, that they are tenants," Hoover said.

The homes are not free but are subsidized to those with a steady, verifiable source of income who can demonstrate financial responsibility.

The applicant's income and financial health is expected to remain stable or improve by the time of home purchase. This demonstrates that the applicant will afford both a home mortgage plus the ability to maintain the home.

An applicant's need for shelter can be determined by factors such as lack of space, overcrowded housing, unsafe living conditions, unaffordable housing, problems with major utilities, or other general structural problems.

Habitat homeowners are required to complete 500 hours of "sweat equity" in order to move into their new home. These hours can be completed by working on your own home, working on other habitat homes, working at the ReStore and Thrift Store, attending required classes and workshops, or assisting with other Sisters Habitat projects.

Last week, Sisters Habitat sponsored an estate planning workshop, and about 30 people attended.

"It's not just buying or owning a home," Hoover explained. "There's insurance, maintenance, utility bills, and other considerations that Habitat wants to help the community grapple in building homeowner wealth."

The workshop was an example of one of the added ways in which Sisters Habitat hopes to cast a bigger footprint.

Likewise, helping homeowners who are physically unable to declutter and/or make their homes accessible.

Hoover and his team want to emphasize sustainability moving forward - not primarily as an environmental goal, but in order to keep homes affordable, their overarching mission. The rising cost of energy will make owning a home less affordable for those on the margins. Adding insulation, sealing cracks, replacing inefficient windows are but a few of the ways Habitat sees it might make a difference.

Hoover said it's not his initiative exclusively; the entire board is buying into and supporting the opportunity to increase the organization's role in affordability. He also wishes to assure donors and others who may ask that these shifts are completely consistent with the mission and values of Habitat International.

To date Habitat Sisters has sold affordable homes to some 70 families. Mortgage payments for homes recently sold average $600 per month (including property tax and insurance). These houses are sold at no profit to partner families and financed with no-interest mortgages that are issued for 30 years.

Hoover said Sisters Habitat expects to align with an increased number of businesses and organizations to realize their broader goals and help alleviate growing affordable housing concerns in Sisters.

The median home price in Sisters fell in September to $540,000, a 9.15 percent decline year over year. For five of the last 24 months the median price exceeded $700,000 and breached $800,000 once this summer.


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