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Grant, volunteers will help Habitat build six homes in 2007

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In the 10 years since it was formed, St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity has built 26 homes. This year, thanks in part to a commitment from Lutherans, crews will start work on six more.

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In recent years, the local Habitat chapter has been averaging four houses a year, said Executive Director Amy Muzzy. In 2007 the commitment from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, which is donating money and arranging volunteers, will help build three of six houses.

"It's a big jump," Muzzy.

"This to me is just wonderful what they've instigated," said Muzzy. "They want to help Habitat build more homes for families in need."

She said Thrivent will provide 65% of the cost of the three houses and arrange for its volunteers to provide half the labor "which really inspires the Lutheran community and Lutheran volunteers to help out."

The Thrivent donation of about $222,000 will help build a house in Hammond, one in Prescott and half of a twin home in River Falls. This year's Habitat projects also include the other half of the River Falls twin home, another house in Baldwin and Habitat's first house in Elmwood.

Donations and volunteer labor allow Habitat to sell houses to low-income families at well below market value. Muzzy said locally Habitat prices to partner families range from about $72,000 in Elmwood to about $86,000 in Hudson.

"The biggest factor in keeping the cost down is the volunteer labor," said Muzzy.

Habitat charges no interest on its loans to families. Their payments - which include mortgage plus escrow funds for insurance and real estate taxes - run around $550 to $600 a month locally.

Muzzy said Habitat takes a 30-year second mortgage on the difference between the buying price and the value of the house, forgiving 1/30th of the price each year the family lives in the home.

In choosing partner families, local committees look at need, ability to pay and willingness to partner, said Muzzy.

Habitat home applicants meet the first qualification if they are living in housing that is inadequate because of condition or size or if it is costing more than they can afford. Applicants for St. Croix Valley houses musts have either lived or worked in St. Croix or Pierce county for at least six months.

While Habitat homes are generally available to families whose income is 25% to 50% ($17,000 to $27,000 per year) of the area's median income, partner families must prove they can afford mortgage payments, taxes and insurance.

"We don't want to put somebody in a house and then unrealistically expect them to make a payment they can't afford," said Muzzy.

The third requirement -- "willingness to partner" -- means more than just a commitment to help build their own house, said Muzzy. A two-mortgage-holder family is expected to put in 500 hours of work and 10% of that must be done on another house or service project.

"They have to show a commitment before we'll even start building," said Muzzy.

For more information about St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity, visit its Website: scvhabitat.org.

Thrivent Financial is a not-for-profit fraternal benefit society that sponsors national outreach programs and activities that support congregations, schools, charitable organizations and individuals in need. For more information, visit www.thrivent.com.

Applicant meeting

An information meeting for persons interested in applying for a Habitat for Humanity twin home to be built in River Falls this year will be held Feb. 17.

Attendance at this meeting is the only way to apply for the home.

For more information, call St. Croix Valley Habitat for Humanity, 425-5623.

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