Home equity. It’s a phrase that we’re all familiar with, a dream and a goal that people live their entire lives working toward. All of us have a need to feel as though we’ve found a home of our own, a place that is ours and ours alone, somewhere that is safe and comforting even on the darkest of days.
Unfortunately, home comes at a cost, and that cost can sometimes be out of the realm of possibility when financial strain keeps every last dollar in its miserly grasp. In situations like these, hardworking families all over the country are often forced to give up their dreams of owning a home, living instead in rented houses or apartments where safety is questionable and conditions are far from ideal, never feeling as though they have a sanctuary and a place to build a better life and a better future.
In an effort to rebuild those dreams and offer people a true chance at owning a home, Habitat for Humanity was begun in 1976, pouring the foundations of its first houses in Georgia and sparking the hopes of people all over the country as it grew to become a nationwide organization. It’s a mission driven by heart, by hands, and by determination. That home equity is earned through sweat equity, the volunteer work that goes into every square foot of the homes that are built each year for deserving families. As the high pitched hum of ripsaws and the rhythm of hammers harmonize to play out the soundtrack to long days of labor, simple beams transform to become the framework of a future filled with new hope.
In 1992, citizens of Clarksville started their own workforce, sacrificing their time to put their hands to work and remedy the lack of affordable housing in the area. Under the skilled leadership of Herb Baggett, who served as the Montgomery County chapter’s first President, Habitat for Humanity went on to build a loyal crew of big hearted workers who put their love of people and their desire to serve God to use as they constructed homes for low-income families in need of some help.
To date, the Montgomery County chapter has built 91 homes throughout the Clarksville area, typically completing between three and five projects per year. Families qualify for homes by first filling out an application, but not just anyone can apply. To become a Habitat Homebuyer, a family must have lived in Montgomery County for at least one year, their current housing must be considered inadequate, they must be financially able to maintain a mortgage payment, and they must be willing to contribute 250 hours of sweat equity per adult in the family. This ensures that they can truly afford the financial burden of their new home and that they’re truly invested—wholeheartedly—in being a member of the community. But there’s also a sense of pride in that. Their new home is truly theirs—they’ve helped build it, and now they get to build a life in it.
“Homeownership has a positive impact on the community,” says Outreach and Services Coordinator Margaret Alexander. “It helps establish a more stable community by creating taxpayers and more responsible citizens who vote, and it also offers the opportunity for people to volunteer and help others.” As Alexander explains, that sweat equity is a way of paying it forward, a down-payment on a home that would otherwise be out of reach, as well as a chance to give other families like theirs a new reason to dream. The required 250 hours can be served at their own home site, at the ReStore as a volunteer worker, or on the home of another deserving family.
“We build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter,” Alexander continues. “The home is built and sold to them at cost with a mortgage that has no interest payments, which makes it affordable to maintain. Their monthly payment goes back into the housing fund to finance other homes for other families.”
It’s an inspiring circle of giving that literally builds generosity. It builds bonds, as well, creating friendships and knocking down the figurative walls of diversity even as it builds the physical walls of a home. “In working together for this common goal, we find that have far more in common than we have differences,” Alexander says.
There’s hope in that statement and an understanding of the strength of selflessness. Love is a powerful tool, and it’s building beautiful homes full of beautiful dreams each and every day.
To learn more about upcoming builds by calling (931) 645-4222 or visiting the website at www.habitatmctn.org. You can also stop in for a peek at Habitat’s ReStore, located at 408 Madison Street, Clarksville, Tennessee, 37043. Open Monday- Saturday, 9:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.