Habitat Charity Turns Foreclosed Homes

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In the case of Habitat for Humanity, every cloud does have a silver lining.

Habitat, one of the nation's most well-known charities, is benefiting from the current foreclosure crisis by buying up homes for sale for less than half the original sales price.

"The down real estate market is a wonderful opportunity for all Habitats," said Gage Yager, executive director of Trinity Habitat for Humanity in Fort Worth, Texas. "As prices drop, we have the opportunity to acquire at prices that just weren't available a few years ago."

The charity that has made a name for itself over the past several years by offering affordable housing to low-income families.

Some Habitat can now buy up foreclosed homes, and bring in volunteers to renovate. If renovation is not practical, the houses are demolished and cleared to make way for new construction.

In some cities, Habitat has even been able to purchase unfinished subdivisions that developers could not afford to complete.

Helping Families

Habitat officials say they are not taking advantage of others misfortune. They say getting families into their affordable homes is better for neighborhoods than leaving homes vacant or letting slumlords bring even more problems to communities.

"We're stepping up to the plate to provide some viable solutions to the housing crisis," said Sharon Rolenc, a spokeswoman for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. She said vacant homes can drive up crime and reduce the value of neighboring property.

One Habitat official said the extent to which local chapters take advantage of foreclosures depends on how much they can afford.

For example, the Fort Worth, Texas chapter is negotiating to buy a portion of a 160-lot subdivision that a developer did not complete. Yager said they plan to purchase 50 of the remaining 100 vacant lots and put single-family homes on them.

Yager said the Fort Worth market for such lots has dropped around 30 percent to 40 percent since the height of the real estate boom.

Congress May Help

Current legislation on Capitol Hill may help Habitat and other nonprofit housing agencies take even greater advantage of property bargains.

One proposed bill would send $15 billion to the hardest-hit states for the purchase and improvement of foreclosed property.

The states could then make those properties available to nonprofits such as Habitat. The Bush administration, however, has threatened to veto the bill.

Source:  The Associated Press

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