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    Friday, June 09, 2023

    Habitat for Humanity builds hope


    Lisa Dodson told a Day reporter recently that she never thought she’d become a homeowner.

    Yet, at age 45, the New London resident is finally on the cusp of homeownership, poised to close within a few months on a new house in Willimantic.

    This is thanks to her own hard work and the efforts of Habitat for Humanity.

    Habitat is an agency that makes homeownership possible for lower income residents, despite escalating rent costs, home prices and mortgage interest rates. It is a ray of hope in an otherwise bleak atmosphere bereft of many affordable housing options for so many.

    Becoming a homeowner through Habitat is not an easy process, but that is part of the reason why it has proven to be so successful in its mission. Habitat works to ensure new homeowners are fully prepared for the experience of homeownership before they move into their new houses. The agency understands that owning a home represents a totally different lifestyle and way of thinking from renting an apartment.

    Prospective Habitat homeowners must put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity in the form of helping build their new home and attending classes about home maintenance, personal finance and other necessary homeowner skills. Habitat also selects prospective homeowners based on need and the ability to pay an affordable mortgage.

    In addition to the sweat equity, successful Habitat candidates also must open a savings account and make regular deposits into it so they can save to pay their share of the closing costs on their new home. Dodson, for example, must save $1,000 - not an easy accomplishment even though she works full time.

    The process can take up to two years and competition is stiff. Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut, which covers a geographic area extending from the shoreline to the Massachusetts border, receives about 150 applications in each of two annual rounds. These initial applicants are winnowed down to about 20 after an intense screening process.

    Despite a process that might be discouraging for some, Habitat’s results are impressive. Since 2006, Habitat for Humanity of Eastern Connecticut has built 107 homes and increased its annual home sales from five to eight. Globally, Habitat for Humanity International works in more than 70 countries and, since its formation in 1976, has helped more than 39 million people improve their living conditions.

    For successful candidates such as Dodson and her children, the benefits are many. She will pay about the same for her mortgage, including taxes and insurance, that she now pays to rent an apartment in New London. She will move from a run-down apartment in need of repairs to a new house. She will have her own yard where her children can play and she can enjoy some privacy. She will have a bathtub, her own washer and dryer and a pantry.

    One drawback for Dodson is that the location of her new home will require a longer commute to her job at Stop & Shop in Old Saybrook. She’s hopeful she can be transferred to a different Stop & Shop closer to Willimantic, however.

    “I feel like it’s going to be a new start and it’s going to change my life for the better,” Dodson told a Day reporter.

    We commend the work of Habitat for Humanity. The agency not only provides better housing for so many, but new hope for a better life.

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