SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Habitat for Humanity(HFH) welcomed Chelsea, a new homeowner, to the Summit County community in August via their Home Ownership Program. Chelsea, a public servant in the area, never dreamed of home ownership as a possibility, and even less so within Summit County where she works. Now after a month of living in her new home, things have changed for both her and her son.
The Home Ownership Program aims to help working community members become homeowners. The process involves an application that is evaluated under three principle criteria: need, ability to pay an affordable mortgage, and willingness to partner with HFH. These three criteria are important because the HFH acts as the builder and mortgage lender, thereby creating a partnership with the applicant. The applicant is also required to have worked full-time in Summit County for a year and must be within Summit County’s Area Medium Income (AMI).
For Chelsea, everything started with getting involved in the She Means Business financial literacy course offered by HFH. The program is a five-week education course that includes instruction covering setting goals, budgeting before moving into mortgages, and investing. While taking the course, Chelsea had been looking for a place to live in Summit County.
“I was looking for housing but assumed I would have to find an affordable rental property. I got on every wait list I could, all of which indicated an 18-24 month wait when I applied. Owning was not in the cards for me, especially within Summit County,” said Chelsea.
The long wait lists for affordable rental properties are a common issue for many looking for affordable housing in Summit County. Knowing that the wait time frame was not a great option for her, Chelsea decided to apply for the Home Ownership Program.
“I focused on my finances and gained the confidence to apply for the Habitat program when applications were opened. Part of the process was an interview in which they fully explained what it takes to partner with Habitat as a homeowner. Two of the biggest components were the ability to obtain a mortgage and sweat equity. In order to be a successful partner, I completed more than 200 hours of sweat equity, both on my home and the one completed last year. I also improved my financial situation in order to qualify for a mortgage,” said Chelsea.
The building of her home and others under the Home Ownership Program is a community effort through business involvement and volunteering. Everything from time to materials are donated to the construction.
“Village Development Group, a land developer that donated the land we’re building on. Just Right Heating & Cooling, is a long-time donor that installs the heating and cooling systems in our homes. There are too many to mention, but three more include; Topmark Floor & Design donated the flooring for our two homes in Silver Creek Village; Whirlpool donated kitchen appliances; and the Salt Lake Community College Construction Trades Program built and installed the kitchen and bathroom cabinets,” said Monika Guendner, Community Engagement and Marketing Manager for Habitat for Humanity.
Chelsea recently made her first payment on her home mortgage. It’s only been a matter of weeks since moving into the home, and the changes to her and her son’s life are already visible.
“It’s been an extraordinarily long couple of weeks since moving in. I made my first mortgage payment last week, which includes insurance and HOA dues, purchased a washer and dryer, ordered the first new couch I’ve ever owned, and painted my son’s room,” said Chelsea. “With all of the chaos of first-time home ownership and moving, I am still so grateful through it all and lay down at night feeling at peace, finally.”