Pictured is a Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County home in Southfield. Habitat has helped make home ownership a reality for some local residents.

Pictured is a Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County home in Southfield. Habitat has helped make home ownership a reality for some local residents.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Habitat for Humanity continues to help in altered housing market

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published August 26, 2021


OAKLAND COUNTY — For many people, owning a home is one of their greatest aspirations in life.

In order to help accomplish that, some reach out to organizations such as Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County for assistance.

Up until recently, Katie Brumfield was a marketing and communications associate for Habitat.

She said the nonprofit has been building houses in Oakland County since 1995 and has helped over 900 individuals and families gain access to safe and affordable housing.

Brumfield cleared up what is perhaps a common misconception about Habitat.

“People think of Habitat just in terms of giving away houses, but anyone who has a Habitat house actually purchases that home,” she said. “In addition to our home ownership program, we also have financial coaching, critical home repairs, as well as neighborhood revitalization initiatives. Our philosophy is ‘a hand up, not a handout.’ We partner with home buyers and home owners to either purchase a decent home with an affordable mortgage or complete projects that they may need in order to ensure a decent and safe home.”

Brumfield elaborated on what Habitat does to help community members.

“What we do is provide opportunities for families that make 50% to 80% of the area median income, so low-to-moderate-income individuals and (families) who are living in substandard housing, whether that be a rental that’s way too small for how many children they have or a place with mold or somewhere where the landlord doesn’t respond to issues — that kind (of) stuff,” she said.

According to Brumfield, Habitat receives an average of 1,100 intake forms for its home ownership program annually.

In order to get assistance, the organization does expect something in return.

“Every Habitat house that is purchased by a Habitat home buyer is either newly rehabbed or newly built from the ground up. So, part of being in our home ownership program is that you contribute 300 hours of sweat equity to the affiliate,” Brumfield said. “That means you have a buy-in to the process. As well, you get to have a hands-on experience, whether that be in our ReStores, where we sell home goods to the public to raise money towards our mission, or on a build site, whether that’s someone else’s build site or your build site of your own home.”

In order to qualify for a Habitat home, residents have to go through a traditional lending process.

“We have three different lenders that we currently use, but if someone has someone else that they would like to use, they are welcome to do that, as well,” Brumfield said. “In order to fully apply to our program, you do have to have a pre-qualification letter. And then that gets you going in the official application process with Habitat. The mortgages are typically low interest, fixed-rate, low down payment, or there’s down payment assistance programs and things like that.”

Alex Nefouse is the vice president of Ross Mortgage Corp. corporate office in Troy.

He said, “Lenders cannot discriminate because somebody makes (a) thousand or 30 million dollars a year.”

Nefouse shared some tips for those attempting to go through a mortgage approval process.

“Have your documentation in order,” he said. “Quite frankly, it’s pretty boring right now. There’s so many oversights. … If you have your income documentation and you pay your bills on time, it should be fairly easy.”

For those who want to qualify for a home loan but aren’t quite in a position to do so yet, Brumfield shared ways Habitat can help.

“We do have financial coaching classes,” she said. “So if someone comes to us looking to purchase a home and they’re not quite ready to qualify, we have financial coaching (to) help them increase their credit score, help them start saving, create a budget, that kind (of) stuff.”

Brumfield said Habitat is building four homes this year.

She said the homes are being built from the ground up, with one of them having already been purchased and dedicated.

“Typically, we have our homes that we are already building and selling, and then they’ll pick from that portfolio,” Brumfield said. “People don’t typically come to us with a home that they’re looking to rehab because to be a Habitat homeowner, you have to be a first-time buyer. … Typically, people are coming to us from rental situations.”

Brumfield said Habitat has built “all over” Oakland County but added that Pontiac and Souhfield are the two “focus areas.”

All of Habitat’s four homes this year are in Southfield, she said.

More homes could be added to its portfolio going forward, despite how “crazy” the housing market is right now.

“We’re constantly on the hunt for acquisition,” Brumfield said. “We’re kind (of) facing that same issue that everyone is facing when it comes to houses right now, in terms of acquisition, but we’re constantly on the hunt for that.”

Brumfield shared her perspective on Habitat’s role in assisting people.

“I think a lot (of) these people are working really hard, and they just can’t get to home ownership,” she said. “And so we provide the opportunity for them to live in a safe, decent and affordable home by partnering with them, partnering with volunteers. I like to view it more as an opportunity than helping. … We provide the opportunity for people to help themselves.”

For more information, visit habitatoakland.org or call (248) 338-1843.