The Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity, formerly known as Longview Habitat for Humanity, has been active since 1985, with the organization expanding to cover Gregg, Harrison and Upshur counties in 2018.

During that time, organization CEO LaJuan Hollis said that they have been able to construct 114 homes, as well as repair an additional 725 homes in the area.

“Today, one in three people in NE Texas Habitat service area live in homes that threaten physical safety, financial stability, and well-being; or, they must sacrifice nutritious food, healthcare, educational opportunities, and reliable transportation to live in a safe neighborhood,” Hollis said, “Pre-pandemic, that number was one in four. Individuals experiencing this situation are referred to as being cost-burdened, paying 30 to 50 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities.”

She said that this is what makes Habitat for Humanity essential, their core belief that secure shelter is a fundamental human right.

“When half of your household’s income is used for rent and utilities, there isn’t enough left over to meet the needs of a family. No one should be forced to forgo vital human needs to sleep securely at night, allow their child to play outdoors or seek healthcare,” Hollis said, “We work daily to bring people together to create safe and affordable places for all of us to live and to thrive. Thriving households create healthy and successful communities, and that is good for all of us.”

In 2021 alone, Northeast Texas Habitat for Humanity was able to complete 127 home projects, correcting health and safety hazards on 125 through its critical repair program. The group also built two new homes locally this year, through the national home ownership program.

Hollis said that the organization made plans to build four new homes this year, but supply chain delays have caused the completion dates to be moved back due to a 24-week delay on windows for the homes.

She said that an additional two homes are at 45 percent and 67 percent complete, and will be finished in February 2022.

“NE Texas Habitat is the only organization in the three-county area that provides the opportunity to build self-reliance, security and stability by constructing and selling decent and affordable homes at cost, with an affordable mortgage to individuals that otherwise cannot qualify for conventional loans based on their income. Likewise, Habitat’s critical repair program is the only one of its kind, correcting safety and health hazards in the homes of lower income senior citizens, persons living with disabilities and military veterans,” Hollis said.

Even with all of the work Habitat for Humanity employees and volunteers put in each year, Hollis said that each of the organization’s programs maintain a constant waiting list for services.

She explained that the programs service about 120 to 130 households annually, but that if funding would allow it, they could easily double those numbers.

“A miracle is the only way to adequately describe it,” Hollis said, “ A modern day miracle occurs when we pass the keys of a safe, affordable home to a family —numerous studies, and the transformation we witness at NE Texas, clearly demonstrates that a stable home immediately improves household health and high school graduation rates, job and career advancement opportunities, builds family wealth, and creates racial and socioeconomic equity in housing. And the benefits last for multiple generations as each generation builds from the secure foundation that the home provides.”

Individuals are able to enroll in the organization’s home ownership program through its application process, which includes income and residency eligibility and an in-depth background and credit screening.

Hollis said that when someone is accepted into the program, the household agrees to partner with Habitat to build and then to buy the home at cost with an affordable mortgage provided by NE Texas Habitat. The future homeowner makes a 1 percent down payment and contributes 350 sweat equity hours building their and others’ homes.

“The average Habitat future homeowner will have helped two other families build their home before being eligible to begin construction of their future home,” Hollis said.

Additionally, those selected must complete 59 hours of homeowner education. Hollis said that the curriculum for the program includes financial literacy, the basics of property ownership, taxes, protecting your investment, basic home maintenance, the importance of civic engagement and the good neighbor standard.

She added that the organizations goal for 2022 was to uplift 150 households through homeownership and critical repair.

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City Reporter

Jessica Harker has been the city reporter with the Marshall News Messenger since 2019.