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About Habitat for Humanity

When UT Tyler Construction Management students partnered with Habitat for Humanity of Smith County last fall, they joined a long tradition of helping people realize the American dream.

Habitat for Humanity started in 1976 when Millard and Linda Fuller collected funds from their local church in Americus, Ga., to build a home for a neighbor in need.

Since then, Habitat has helped to provide housing to low-income families in the U.S., Canada and over 100 other countries. In fact, 279,723 housing needs have been met since 1976.

Jack Wilson, president and chief operations officer of the Habitat in Smith County, said local applications are accepted once a year from families. This year, 17 families are in the program — more than ever before in the 19-year history of the local organization.

He said there was an increase of more than 100 percent in volunteers this year. “We are building more and doing more,” Wilson said.

The families who qualify to purchase Habitat houses earn between 30 and 60 percent of the median income in Smith County. They must demonstrate the ability to pay their new mortgage, have job stability, an acceptable debt-to income ratio, a good credit history and pass a criminal background check.

A candidate must also currently live in substandard housing, in overcrowded, dilapidated or unhealthy conditions. And they are required to contribute 500 “sweat equity” hours by volunteering on other Habitat homes. In addition, these families attend classes on finances, home ownership and many other topics.

“(The home) just gives them a whole new lease on life, especially for the children. It gives them a safe neighborhood, a clean place to live and play,” Wilson said. “They have ownership and that’s a big deal. It’s good for the community. It has a positive ripple effect throughout society.”

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