New Habitat home dedicated in Madison Heights

Nonprofit continues to offer a ‘hand up, not a handout’

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 4, 2013

 Michael Munger receives the keys for his new home from Tim Ruggles, CEO and 
executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County.

Michael Munger receives the keys for his new home from Tim Ruggles, CEO and executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


MADISON HEIGHTS — At the dedication ceremony for his new home Aug. 20, Michael Munger was grinning ear to ear, hugging one person after another and basking in the glow of adoring supporters who had spent many hours this summer helping him overhaul a foreclosed house in the neighborhood east of John R and south of 12 Mile.

Now Munger, 48, single with no kids, will have a place to call his own, not far from where he grew up in the 12 Mile and Dequindre area.

“It’s been an incredible experience,” Munger told the crowd gathered on the side of his new home on the 2000 block of Osmun. “Everybody did an excellent job — the quality of work, the time that they spent, ya know, just away from their families and their friends and everything, just to help me achieve a dream.”

The project was done through Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County (HFHOC), the first of three such projects in Madison Heights this year. Including the Munger home, HFHOC has already built or rehabbed seven homes in Madison Heights since 2010. County-wide, the group has 10 builds or rehabs planned this year.

HFHOC, a Christian ministry dedicated to eradicating poverty housing in Oakland County and around the world, helps families with an income of 30 to 60 percent of the median income of the area in which they build.

In Madison Heights, a family of four at the high end of the spectrum, or 60 percent, would be $38,640 annual gross income. At the other end, this figure would be closer to $19,300 annual gross income.

HFHOC requires each family to have a stable source of income, may it be employment, disability, pension or other, so that they can make their own mortgage payments, including an escrow for taxes and insurance. The mortgage is 0 percent.

“Habitat is unique in that, for every donated dollar that goes into the system to support a project, the money is returned to support another family in the future through the mortgage payments,” said Tim Ruggles, CEO and executive director of HFHOC. “So the return on investment is much greater than 100 percent of the dollar. It’s upwards of probably 150 or 175 percent, paying it forward to help another family through the mortgage stream income. It really makes the program unique.”

Families are also expected to invest 300 sweat equity hours, at their own build site or others, with less physically taxing options available in the office. Family and friends may do one third of the sweat equity hours.

This is in keeping with the nonprofit’s motto, “A hand up, not a handout,” and helps strengthen the community by ensuring the homeowner is truly committed to their home.

“There’s a misconception out there that Habitat gives away homes,” said Stephanie Osterland, director of Family and Community Relationships at HFHOC.

She noted that in addition to the sweat equity, mortgage payment and income requirements, applicants are required to take a homebuyer’s seminar and a series of classes on home finance, homeowner’s insurance, maintenance, landscaping and more.

“Everything is done by the time they move into the house,” she said.

Families must also save $1,000 for a down payment, and save one year’s homeowner’s insurance premium, usually $850 to $1,000.

Doing all of this constitutes the homeowner’s share. Many sponsors and volunteers then work with them to build or rehab the home.

This particular rehab was supported by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, as well as the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, Dow, Hunter Douglas, Masco and Valspar.

Mercedes-Benz Financial Services was a major sponsor. They provided funding and around 70 volunteers to install a new roof during a “blitz week” at the project’s start in late May, around which time they and others were also tearing out the home’s interior.

Other volunteers included a dozen students from Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, removing overgrown shrubs and trees. Family and friends of Munger also helped out, including Munger’s own mom. They worked six to eight hours a day, three days a week, whipping the property into shape.

Originally built in 1971, the home on the 2000 block of Osmun had been foreclosed and was in some state of disrepair. HFHOC acquired it from the bank at a discounted rate. The house is about 950 square feet — three bedrooms, one full bath. Everything is new or upgraded, from electrical and plumbing, to a fully remodeled kitchen and bathroom, to all-new windows and roofing. The unfinished basement is insulated and has a painted floor.  

Around 680 people applied last year for Habitat homes through HFHOC. Munger was approved in September 2012, at which point he began putting in the sweat equity hours and taking the required classes. It all paid off Aug. 20 at the dedication ceremony, where the home truly became Munger’s.

It was plain to see how much everyone admired Munger, who Ruggles described as the “epitome of a perfect Habitat partner family.” Volunteers took turns vouching for Munger’s work ethic, attitude of gratitude and the warm heart he wears on his sleeve.

“The reason I am here is because of you,” said a tearful Sierra Coley, a coordinator from AmeriCorps. “You have inspired me to be a better person.”   

Local artist Tim Yanke, of Park West Gallery, presented one of his “Yanke Doodles,” the third he’s donated to a Habitat dedication. The painting of an American flag featured the words of the National Anthem, and a rainbow-hued border celebrating the diversity of the United States. There was also a tree planted in the backyard — a new touch for a Habitat dedication.

And then there was the ceremonial presentation of the key — or rather, a Habitat-branded keychain, since Munger already had the key.

“I will give you this (keychain), but let me suggest the key is in the heart — it’s in the heart of all of the people who helped build this home, it’s in the heart of your family and of course, it’s in your heart,” Ruggles said. “Just remember the key is what’s inside. And man, you made it happen.”

For more information about Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County, visit