Habitat for Humanity New York City is fully renovating 13 single-family homes — 12 in Southeast Queens and one on Staten Island — and turning them into affordable homes for local first-time homebuyers. We recently spoke with Matt Dunbar, Vice President of Government Relations & Advocacy at Habitat NYC about the project.
These homes are among properties that the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conveyed to the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in the 1990s. Some remained vacant, some were used to provide housing for NYCHA tenants. By the 2000s, many of the homes needed major renovations. Habitat worked with NYCHA to take ownership of the properties so they can renovate them and sell them at affordable prices to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers. Want to learn more about the history of these homes? AmNY wrote about this project last week, check it out!
So what happens to these homes now? The Habitat selection process for homeowners first starts with focused outreach and marketing within the community, Southeast Queens and Staten Island in this case. Applicants then go through a selection process, including a written application and an interview, in front of a volunteer-run selection committee. If they’re selected, Family Partners (Habitat’s term for applicants) must agree to perform 250 hours per adult of “sweat equity” with up to 500 hours per family. Sweat equity hours from Family Partners, alongside volunteers, is one way that Habitat is able to make the homes they build affordable to families that would otherwise not have the opportunity to own a home. These hours include the labor needed to help build their own home, other active Habitat projects, and education about homeownership.
The 13 homes Habitat NYC is working on represent a unique project for the Habitat model. As Matt said,“the addresses of the homes were very recognizable” to community members when Habitat NYC presented to at the start of the project. These homes have been vacant for years, but this project has allowed Habitat to “bring the homes back to the community.” And these homes will be affordable: Habitat homeowners pay no more than one-third of their household income in monthly housing costs.
Matt says that the project will continue as long as there is a need for it — in fact, Habitat NYC is planning to buy 16 new homes in a second cycle of the project next year.