Home ownership often means the difference between stability and upheaval — and for children especially it can mean the difference between long-term success and failure.
That was a message carried by Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk CEO Diane Burke to Greenport Village officials last night.
Burke was invited to speak to the village board by Trustee Doug Roberts, who recently suggested the village work with Habitat to build homes on two village-owned parcels on Webb Street.
Skyrocketing rents often require renters to pay a far higher portion of their monthly household income on housing costs than the 30-percent maximum recommended by financial and credit consultants, Burke said.
And increasingly, more affordable rents mean substandard and overcrowded living conditions, she said.
“Most of the folks that come through our program are paying way too much to rent — you can’t even believe how ridiculous the rent is — or they are in such substandard housing you can’t believe what they are living in,” Burke said.
Working for Habitat has been “an eye opener,” she said.
“People who rent are always wondering if their kids will be able to finish their school year in the district, if they’ll be there next year — or even next month,” Burke said. “And it’s so hard to find housing to rent when you have children,” she said. Often when landlords find out a prospective tenant has children the house or apartment suddenly becomes “already rented,” she added.
“So home ownership is life-changing” for families, she said.
The purchase of the home is recorded at market value “so as not to diminish the value of the homes in the neighborhood,” said Burke, who explained the subsidy is done by Habitat “internally.”
Deed restrictions are placed on the property requiring subsequent owners to meet Habitat home income guidelines “in perpetuity,” Burke said. The homeowners must make no more than 80-percent of Suffolk’s average median income.
The financing is a “soft mortgage,” Burke said. “Every year you’re current on your mortgage on a particular date 1/20 or 1/30 gets written down.”
If the homeowner lives there for 30 years, the restrictions are removed.
“It’s not meant to enrich anyone. It’s meant to give someone an affordable place that they can own,” Burke said
Roberts said Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk has ordered title searches on both Webb Street parcels to make sure there are no issues with the county. At last month’s work session, the subject of a possible reverter to the county was discussed. Roberts said he spoke with the county real estate department and even if there was a deed reverter, the county will cooperate with the village.
Habitat for Humanity of Suffolk, which currently has four working crews can build up to 12 houses a year, Burke said. The organization has built 180 houses in Suffolk County over the past 27 years. This year it is completing its first one on the North Fork, a house in Orient. The home, purchased by Orient native Mike Bredemeyer, is nearing completion, Burke said. She invited the mayor and trustees to visit the job site to see what the home is like.