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Habitat For Humanity Is Building 12 Affordable Homes In The Glades And Surrounding Communities

Wells Fargo Foundation's Hailey Sellars is helping Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County build homes in the Glades and surrounding communities.
Habitat For Humanity of Palm Beach County
Wells Fargo Foundation's Hailey Sellars is helping Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County build homes in the Glades and surrounding communities.

As the soaring housing market in Palm Beach County continues to heat up, one local nonprofit is keeping tabs on families who can’t purchase affordable homes.

Habitat for Humanity of Palm Beach County received a $15,000 grant from Wells Fargo Foundation to help pay for 12 new single-family homes in Belle Glade and surrounding areas. Each house in the area costs more than $200,000 to build, according to the nonprofit.

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Qualified families have already moved or in the process of moving into homes in the Glades, Pahokee, and South Bay neighborhoods. And several homes are set to complete at the end of the year.

Bernard Godek, the executive director, describes the long-term vision as an evolving effort to help low-income families prosper in Pahokee, Belle Glade, and South Bay. The vision? Help families climb the economic ladder through homeownership over the next year.

“Because when you look [at] historically, underrepresented populations out there, their only means of really generating wealth, generationally, is through the ownership of their home,” Godek said.

According to the Brookings Institute, a nonprofit research organization, home equity is one of the biggest drivers for wealth.

Through the support and cooperation of Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson and other local leaders, Habitat is focusing on the three communities because they've been largely “neglected" when it comes to affordable housing, Godek said.

“There has been many projects that have been started that have either never been completed or never even started,” he says. “There's been a lot of disappointment among those three communities when it comes to organizations, whether they be for profit or nonprofit, providing homeownership opportunities for the residents in the Glades.”

The qualified families that applied for the program represent a very broad range of jobs. “A lot of them are in the hospitality industry, which, of course, was hit very hard during the pandemic,” Godek said.

“We have quite a number of employees that are school crossing guards and bus drivers and cafeteria workers on it. There's such a wide variety of jobs that our families have.”

The Selection Process:

There are several qualified families that have already moved into the completed homes.

When Habitat breaks ground on a home, it doesn’t sit vacant. He says on the day of the groundbreaking, that the family is already qualified for a 30-year interest-free mortgage through Habitat, “which makes it extremely affordable.”

Godek said qualified, low-income families do not make down payments. Families only pay principal, taxes, and insurance on the mortgage. And a portion of their payments helps other communities in Palm Beach County. And during the process, Habitat helps the qualified families through a savings program to pay at least $3,000 to help with closing costs, Godek said.

Families must go through eight weeks of an intensive homeownership preparation classes.

It’s “400 hours of what we call sweat equity, and the vast majority of that time is going to be spent on site with our construction staff building their home,” Godek said. “And that's non-negotiable. They've got to complete those 400 hours before we close on the home with them.”

“Principal portion of their mortgage payments is invested in future construction for families in Palm Beach County, “ Godek said. “All Habitats work under this model and it has worked well serving thousands of families nationwide.”

The nonprofit opened a satellite office in Belle Glade to conduct homeownership education classes in the neighboring communities.

And part of Habitat’s long-term vision includes improving neighborhoods through its Neighborhood Revitalization Program. Godek said there's a tremendous need for critical home-repair projects, like plumbing, air conditioning and roof repair.

“We completed it for a single dad with children in West Palm Beach, where he had such a hole in his roof that people looked at it as a skylight,” Godek said.

“The vast majority of our applicants for repair projects are senior citizens, people that have lived in their homes for 20, 30, 40 years.”

The applicants fear becoming homeless and want to “age in the home that they grew up in.”

Godek says the vision is an evolving attempt to provide the necessary tools to become long-term homeowners and climb the economic ladder.

Wilkine Brutus is the Palm Beach County Reporter for WLRN. The award-winning journalist produces stories on topics surrounding local news, culture, art, politics and current affairs. Contact Wilkine at wbrutus@wlrnnews.org
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