Frequently Asked Questions
See the following for Frequently Asked Questions regarding:
- Habitat for Humanity International
- Raritan Habitat for Humanity
- Owning a Habitat Home
- Volunteering with Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity
- Supporting the work of Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity Through Donations
About Habitat for Humanity International
How and when was Habitat for Humanity started?
Millard and Linda Fuller founded Habitat for Humanity International in 1976. The concept was born at Koinonia Farm, a small, interracial Christian farming community founded in 1942 outside of Americus, Georgia, by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan. The Fullers first visited Koinonia in 1965, having recently left a successful business and all the trappings of an affluent lifestyle to begin a new life of Christian service. At Koinonia, Jordan and Fuller developed the concept of “partnership housing,” where those in need of adequate shelter would work side by side with volunteers to build simple, decent houses. That concept became Habitat for Humanity.
How many homes has Habitat for Humanity International built?
Through the work of Habitat, thousands of low-income families have found new hope in the form of affordable housing. Habitat for Humanity International has built more than 500,000 houses, sheltering more than 2 million people worldwide and becoming a true world leader in addressing the issue of poverty housing. Churches, community groups, and others continue to join together in an effort to provide decent housing for all.
What is President Jimmy Carter’s relationship to Habitat for Humanity?
In 1984, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, took their first Habitat work trip, the Jimmy Carter Work Project, to New York City. Their personal involvement in Habitat’s ministry brought the organization national visibility and sparked interest in Habitat’s work across the nation. HFHI experienced a dramatic increase in the number of new affiliates around the country as a result of the Carters’ involvement.
What are the mission and principles of Habitat for Humanity International?
Mission statement: Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.
- Demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ. We undertake our work to demonstrate the love and teachings of Jesus, acting in all ways in accord with the belief that God’s love and grace abound for all, and that we must be “hands and feet” of that love and grace in our world. We believe that, through faith, the miniscule can be multiplied to accomplish the magnificent, and that, in faith, respectful relationships can grow among all people.
- Focus on shelter. We have chosen, as our means of manifesting God’s love, to create opportunities for all people to live in decent, durable shelter. We put faith into action by helping to build, renovate, and preserve homes, as well as partnering with others to accelerate and broaden access to affordable housing as a foundation for breaking the cycle of poverty.
- Advocate for affordable housing. In response to the prophet Micah’s call to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God, we promote decent, affordable housing for all, and we support the global community’s commitment to housing as a basic human right. We advocate for just and fair housing policy to eliminate the constraints that contribute to poverty housing. And, in all of our work, we seek to put shelter on hearts and minds in such powerful ways that poverty housing becomes socially, politically, and religiously unacceptable.
- Promote dignity and hope. We believe that no one lives in dignity until everyone can live in dignity. We believe that every person has something to contribute and something to gain from creating communities in which all people have decent, affordable places to live. We believe that dignity and hope are best achieved through equitable, accountable partnerships.
- Support sustainable and transformational development. We view our work as successful when it transforms the lives of others and promotes positive and lasting social, economic, and spiritual changes within a community, when it is based on mutual trust and fully shared accomplishment, and when it demonstrates responsible stewardship of all resources entrusted to us.
About Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RVHFH)
What is Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RVHFH)?
Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RVHFH) is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a non-profit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry that seeks to eliminate poverty housing in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. We partner with lower-income families and assist them, giving them a hand up into first-time homeownership, not a handout. We work with people from all backgrounds, races, and religions to build houses together in partnership with families in need of safe and secure housing.
When was Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity (RVHFH) founded?
Raritan Valley Habitat was founded in 1992 by a group of area residents concerned by the lack of affordable housing in our region. RVHFH completed its first home in 1994. Now in it’s 25th year, RVHFH is in the process of building it’s 49th and 50th homes.
What is the relationship between HFHI and RVHFH?
RVHFH is an affiliate of HFHI, serving Somerset and Hunterdon Counties in central New Jersey. Habitat is a “grass roots” organization. Like all Habitat affiliates, RVHFH receives guidance from HFHI on programs and policies, but operates independently, raising all of our own funds to finance land purchases, home construction, and other expenses. Each year, RVHFH pays a tithe to HFHI on unrestricted donations (those not specifically designated to support the construction of a local home).
Where does RVHFH build, and how are sites selected?
RVHFH serves Somerset and Hunterdon Counties in central New Jersey. We build in both Counties, wherever we can find affordable property suitable for building. The Property Acquisition Committee identifies and reviews potential properties on an ongoing basis. All properties must be located in a safe place to raise a family, and must suitable for building a single family home or duplex. Current building projects can be found here.
How long does it normally take to build a Habitat home?
Like any construction project, construction variables (such as the weather and inspection approvals) have an impact on the timeline. However, construction of a home takes approximately eight months to complete.
What kind of homes do you build?
The homes we build are simple and decent, meaning they are comfortable and affordable for the partner family. Additionally, all homes we build are Energy Star Certified to ensure the families can afford the homes in the long-term as well. Details about our current, past, and future projects can be found here.
How are homes built?
Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, we build simple, decent, affordable houses. Partner families, individual, corporate and faith-based volunteers work alongside our construction crew to build each home. RVHFH is not a giveaway program. Each adult member of the family who will live in the home (partner family) is required to put in 250 hours of sweat equity, or volunteer labor. They do this by volunteering to build their home and homes of others. Once a partner family moves into their new home, they will pay monthly mortgage payments over a fixed-year term.
How do homeowners pay for their homes?
Habitat homes are sold to partner families at no profit and no interest, making our homes extremely affordable. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are recycled back into Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity to build more Habitat houses, assisting additional families to live in decent, safe and affordable homes.
FAQ’s — Home Ownership
How are families selected to become homeowners?
Partner families are selected based on their:
- Need for affordable housing
- Willingness to partner by contributing sweat equity (labor)
- Ability to repay a no-interest mortgage from RVHFH
- Ability to qualify as a low-income family according to state and federal regulations
All applicants are required to attend an orientation session. They submit an application and supply a variety of documentation to support their application. The Family Selection Committee reviews the applications and selects qualified families for home visits and interviews. The RVHFH Board of Trustees makes the final selection. For more information, see our Homeowners section.
How much does a single-family house cost to build?
The average construction cost of a 1,100 square foot, single-family home is approximately $140,000, not including the cost of the property or infrastructure. Building costs (and mortgage costs) are kept at a low level due to volunteer labor and donated materials or materials purchased at a reduced cost.
How much does the partner family pay for their new home?
The primary criterion for the price of the home is affordability. As a minimum, the home is priced at the construction cost. The cost of the land and infrastructure are not included in the selling price of the home to the family.
How does the partner family finance the home purchase?
RVHFH provides a zero-interest mortgage for each family, with terms tailored to the family’s ability to pay. All mortgage payments are reinvested to fund the construction of more homes.
Who maintains the home once the family has moved in?
Like any homeowner, the family is responsible for home maintenance, as well as mortgage payments, taxes, insurance, and utilities. RVHFH provides guidance regarding home maintenance, but does not provide actual maintenance services once the family has moved in. Warranties on systems and materials are covered by the homeowners warranty.
Are all the people who work on the homes volunteers?
No. The Construction Director and Site Supervisors are RVHFH employees with significant building experience. Professional crews are also utilized for some services, such as plumbing, spackling, and electrical systems. Many of our professional crews provide their services either free or at a reduced cost as a way of donating to RVHFH.
How can I become more involved with RVHFH?
How can I donate to RVHFH?
See our Donate section for all the ways that you can donate to RVHFH and help build affordable houses.
How are partner families selected?
- Families in need of decent shelter apply to our affiliate to become a partner family. Partnering with RVHFH is not a quick fix, as it takes at least 5 – 7 months to be approved as a partner family and an additional amount of time for orientation before the home is even built.
- Our Family Selection Committee chooses homeowners based on need, income, willingness to become partners in the program, and ability to repay the loan, plus other requirements.
- RVHFH does not consider race, color, gender, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression when choosing the families who receive a home.
Aside from volunteering and paying a monthly mortgage, all families must attend educational classes that cover subjects such as taxes and insurance.
What is the first step toward Habitat home ownership?
The process of home ownership begins by reading the entire Home Ownership section of the website and attending Homeowners Orientation. See the Homeowner section of the website for information and orientation dates (only listed if we are looking for homeowners). You can give us your name, mailing address, and phone number by email or by calling the RVHFH office.
What happens at the application meeting?
At the Homeowners Orientation, volunteers and staff outline the program and selection process. You will receive an application and a list of required documents.
How does the selection process work?
The Committee will evaluate your financial eligibility. This consists of reviewing the submitted documentation, references, verification forms, and a credit report to learn about your credit situation. Close attention is paid to outstanding collections, debts, and any unpaid judgments. The Committee is looking for you to show adequate, reliable income to be sure you are ready for the financial responsibility of home ownership. If you meet the income and financial requirements, there will be a home visit. Here, the Committee is looking for your need for housing and willingness to be an active partner with Habitat throughout the program. The Selection Committee then determines your eligibility and presents selected families to the Board of Directors for approval and acceptance.
What if my credit report shows outstanding collections, debt, bankruptcies, judgments, or liens?
We do not look for perfect credit. We consider your whole picture and look for applicants who are ready to accept the responsibility of home ownership. At the same time, we do not want to put you in a home that you cannot afford or in a situation where you cannot be a successful homeowner. You must be at least one year from discharge from a bankruptcy and two years from any foreclosure.
What can I do to prepare for applying?
You are highly encouraged to develop a plan of action to resolve outstanding credit issues. If you would like to get a head start, you can begin to clean up your credit report, seek free financial counseling, and attend the required “Step by Step” program offered by Central Jersey Housing Resource Center (www.cjhrc.org). See the Resources page for contact information.
How long does the process take?
The process from beginning to moving into the home can take from 12 to 24 months or more depending on construction schedules. After you have attended Homeowners Orientation, it takes 5 – 7 months to go through the selection process. It usually takes over a year to complete and move into your own new home.
What does “need for housing” mean?
“Need for housing” can mean a few different things. If the Selection Committee determines any of these apply, you meet this requirement.
- Substandard Housing: Has issues that create health and/or safety problems (mold, unsafe neighborhood, poor heating or plumbing, etc.), or too few bedrooms for the number, ages, and gender of household members.
- Temporary Housing: Temporary living arrangements or transitional/subsidized housing.
- Housing that is too expensive: 30% or more of gross income is being spent for rent.
What is “Sweat Equity”?
Sweat Equity is the time and effort that you contribute toward the purchase of your home through the construction of yours and others’ homes. It is a central principle in Habitat’s mission of building community and partnering with families to provide “not a hand-out, but a hand-UP!” Following approval of the selection committee, you must complete the required number of sweat equity hours, but more important than the number of hours is your consistent, active participation on the jobsite. In fact, most families far exceed the minimum required numbers of hours (250 hours per adult, 100 minimum on the construction site).
What if I don’t know anything about construction?
We do not require any previous skills or knowledge. Sweat equity is an exciting learning experience in which you work with your family, friends, and community to build yours and other peoples’ homes. Working alongside volunteers and future neighbors to build your home and community is one of the most unique, empowering, and rewarding aspects of Habitat for Humanity.
If I’m denied, can I reapply?
Absolutely. The Family Selection Committee does their best to refer you to the tools and resources available to help you improve your situation. Some of our homeowner families were denied the first time they applied due to outstanding collections and debts, income below our limits, recent bankruptcies, or other issues. They successfully improved their eligibility, reapplied, and were accepted into the program.
FAQs – Volunteers and Donors
I’m giving my time, why do you want my money, too?
Each year, over thousands of volunteers work with Raritan Valley Habitat for Humanity to help us build decent, affordable houses in partnership with the families that will live in them. We value each and every one or them, even if the volunteer has never held a hammer or a screwdriver. Volunteer labor is one very important way that we keep the cost of our houses to an absolute minimum. Without volunteers, we cannot get the job done. But volunteer labor is only one resource needed to keep the momentum of Habitat growing. It also takes money. Without money to buy materials and cover other costs, construction stops. Many construction volunteers are surprised, and sometimes offended, when we request a contribution. Unfortunately, some people feel that this request undervalues their volunteer service, or that using volunteers is simply a pretext for soliciting funds. Neither is true. We actively recruit volunteers because we need them. And we ask for money because we need that too. RVHFH does not require that volunteers make any contribution. We ask because we need every dollar we can raise, and the more money that we can raise, the more volunteers we can put to work on construction sites. We ask because if we don’t, people will assume that we don’t need their charitable contributions. So please don’t be mad at us. We truly value your time and deeply appreciate whatever you can offer.
When are construction days?
RVHFH builds on site with volunteers Wednesdays through Saturdays all year round! We are building on multiple sites at the moment, so if you are interested in volunteering and you’re not sure which site to go to, please contact our volunteer manager.
What happens if the weather is bad on the day I am to volunteer?
If the weather is bad, call 908-704-0016 after 7 AM on the scheduled workday to see if construction work is being done. In case of inclement weather during the work day, the construction supervisors will decide whether or not work should continue.
What is the age requirement to build with Habitat?
You must be at least 16 years old to volunteer on a construction site and at least 18 to be on the roof or use power tools. There are other ways to help Habitat if you are under the age of 16, get ideas here!
Do you have to be skilled to work on the construction sites?
No. Anyone who wants to help and is at least 16 years old can volunteer on site. Bring a lunch and a can-do attitude and we will provide the tools and a supervisor to teach you how to use them.
What makes a volunteer group?
A volunteer group is made up of 3 to 10 people who want to volunteer at the same site on the same day. To find out how to sign up your group, click here
If I cannot work on a site are there other ways for me to get involved?
Absolutely! Volunteers are always needed to help around the office, at the work sites, and to serve on our committees. We have some very exciting and creative volunteer opportunities and we are always looking for ways to engage our talented supporters in opportunities to further the RVHFH mission and ultimately, provide more housing. To find out more, click here.
How can my church or faith community get involved?
Your congregation or faith community can volunteer, donate, and even sponsor a home! Find out about our faith communities opportunities
How do I become a Habitat sponsor?
There are a variety of opportunities for you or your congregation, organization, or company to sponsor a Habitat home and make a difference! Click here to find out more.