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Helping families in need: Habitat for Humanity awarded $5.9 million for homeownership program

Appeal-Democrat - 11/7/2023

Nov. 7—Habitat for Humanity Yuba-Sutter was recently awarded nearly $6 million in CalHome grant funding, which will help jumpstart another homeownership program for families in need.

The $5.9 million in funding was awarded through the state Department of Housing and Community Development and will spur the development of 22 new homes in Yuba County.

Habitat for Humanity Yuba-Sutter CEO Joseph Hale said that these houses will serve as phase one for the organization's Fernwood homeownership program.

Habitat for Humanity has fostered similar affordable housing communities in the past like the Sierra Vista development, which features 36 four-bedroom, two-bathroom homes for low-income families. While permanent housing programs focus more on addressing homelessness, homeownership programs are structured for families with a lower income.

While Sierra Vista was built as an expansion of an existing neighborhood in Marysville, Hale said that Fernwood will be an entirely new development featuring 75 homes upon completion. This grant funding will also help establish necessary infrastructure to complete the project.

"It's a homeownership program, so all the units will eventually be owned and hopefully be providing life-long stability to the families who move into them," Hale said. "It'll start out in similar size, but hopefully expand to over twice the size of Sierra Vista eventually."

Habitat for Humanity purchased the property, which is located near Ash Way in Linda, in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic for the purpose of establishing the Fernwood program. The organization has been seeking funding for the project since then, but submitted an application for CalHome funds in March this year.

"These big grants really are about a team spending collectively around 1,000 hours working to get these to a point where they can get approved," Hale said.

Now that funding has been acquired, Hale said that the next steps are launching design and infrastructure for Fernwood. He anticipates that the design phase will last through March 2024 with construction possibly beginning that summer.

Should the project follow this schedule, homes will be open for new families in 2025, Hale said.

Furthering the nonprofit's mission of ending homelessness and substandard housing, Habitat for Humanity's homeownership programs give families in need a new path toward permanent, affordable housing. Housing payments are typically 30% of a Habitat family's monthly income. Hale said that Habitat homes are priced between 30% and 60% of the median income.

"One of the greatest things we feel we can do is provide a family with a new asset. They do pay for these homes, but it's at an affordable rate. What this typically turns out to be is half or less of the cost of buying a traditional home," Hale said. "Right now, we're seeing the homes that we're selling going for about half the price of renting an apartment. It's definitely a great opportunity for families. It's something that provides stability and takes a family out of poverty."

An application process for Habitat homes is sent out around six months before a development is scheduled to begin construction. Habitat for Humanity communicates with county One Stops and other service providers to help spread the word and generate interest for those in need.

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