Does Habitat for Humanity give houses away?

Houses are not given to anyone. Habitat for Humanity builds houses with those in need and then sells the houses to homeowner partners. Mortgage payments can be kept affordable for families unable to obtain conventional financing for a home through low down payments, no-profit/no-interest loans, and volunteer manpower. Habitat homeowners typically have incomes that are 25-50 percent of the median area income. Homeowner’s are required to invest 300-400 hours of “sweat equity”—time spent building on their own house or other Habitat houses, or attending homeownership and financial peace classes. Habitat applicants must meet specific criteria.

How does Habitat homeownership work?

Habitat builds simple, decent homes through volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, with the help of the homeowner families. Habitat homes are sold at no profit, and financed with affordable no-interest loans. The homeowners’ monthly mortgage payments are recycled into a revolving Fund for Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland that supports the construction of new homes.

Where does the money to build a home come from?

Individuals and organizations donate money that is used to purchase land and materials. Habitat is not a government agency. We depend on your contributions to pay the bills.

What is sweat equity?

Homeowners invest hundreds of hours of their own labor (“sweat equity”) into building their own home and the homes of others. Sweat equity helps reduce the cost of the home, increases the personal stake of the family members in their home, and fosters the development of partnerships with other people in the community.

Why is Habitat needed?

There are three main reasons for the affordable housing crisis in America:

  1. The rise in home construction costs,
  2. The decrease in real wages,
  3. And the loss of millions of affordable apartments during the past 20 years.


(The Low Income Housing Information Service, March 1995)

The causes of substandard housing and homelessness are many. Millions of people worldwide are displaced due to war, famine, and natural disasters. Millions more languish in the poverty and squalor found in much of the developing world. In the United States, the wages of low-income families have not kept pace with rising rent and mortgage requirements, while at the same time many low-cost housing units have either been abandoned or demolished, or have been converted into higher-cost units.

Where does Habitat for Humanity build houses?

Habitat through local affiliates is at work in large and small cities, in suburbs and rural areas, in highly developed countries and in those with emerging economies.

How long is the waiting list for prospective homebuyers?

Upon approval, the period before construction begins is about 12 to 18 months. Prospective homeowners are required to complete 150 hours of their “sweat equity” before construction can begin.

How many people must be in a family to qualify for a home?

There is no minimum or maximum. Families are selected based on need, their ability to pay mortgage payments, and their willingness to partner with us by doing “sweat equity.”

Do homeowners have to have a savings account?

No. Checking accounts and custodial accounts for your children can be used to satisfy the savings requirement. In addition, 401k or other retirement accounts are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. However, it is recommended that you open a savings account if you do not have one already.

Do homeowners have to have perfect credit?

We do not look for perfect credit. As long as your financial history shows consistency in paying bills on time, the application will be considered. Bankruptcies, garnishments, or repossessions from four or more years ago will not automatically keep your application from being approved.

Do homebuyers or volunteers need to be members of a church?

No, we do not accept or decline applications based on church membership or religious affiliation. Habitat for Humanity was founded as, and remains, a Christian ministry. However, homeowners are chosen without regard to creed, both in keeping with the requirements of the law and Habitat’s belief that God’s love extends to all, regardless of race, creed or nationality. Habitat also welcomes volunteers from all faiths or no faith who can actively embrace Habitat’s goal of eliminating poverty housing from the world.

I know someone who I think will qualify for a home. What can I do?

They can call the office and ask any questions they may have. A questionnaire can also be downloaded from this website and brought by our office. Upon verification they do qualify for our program, they will be given a full application.

Are Habitat homeowners on welfare?

While some Habitat homeowners may receive public assistance, almost all have full-time jobs and are hard working. Habitat for Humanity works in good faith with people who are often at risk in society, knowing that owning a home is not the answer to every problem but can be an important first step toward breaking out of the cycle of poverty.

Do Habitat houses lower neighborhood property values?

Many studies of low-cost housing show that affordable housing has no adverse effect on other neighborhood property values. In fact, Habitat for Humanity has seen its approach to affordable housing improve neighborhoods and communities by strengthening community spirit, increasing the tax base, and creating conscientious citizens through the cooperative efforts involved in Habitat construction.

Do Habitat homeowners sell their houses and make a large profit because of the original low cost?

Habitat founder Millard Fuller addresses this issue in his book, A Simple, Decent Place to Live: The Building Realization of Habitat for Humanity (Word Publishing, 1995):

“In the two decades of Habitat for Humanity… we have had no history of people selling their houses. Why? Because it’s so hard for these families to get the houses in the first place. It’s like an impossible dream come true. The fact that they can make a profit is not even an issue because they realize that if they sell it, they won’t have a house anymore. And they wouldn’t be able to make payments the way the world would demand on a new one, since the bank or someone else attempting to make a big profit would now be the lender.”

Special second mortgages that are “paid off” by living in the house, as well as first buy-back option clauses that many affiliates put into their agreement with homeowners, also help alleviate concerns that some people may have in this area.

Does Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland donate any money to Habitat International?

Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, tithes 10% of its unrestricted cash donations to Habitat International. Habitat International uses this money to support its operations and foreign mission work. Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland chooses which country our tithe goes to, and currently we’re supporting the building of homes in El Salvador.