Sandra Cocco wants to help make Brant families’ dreams of home ownership come true.
The new executive director of Habitat for Humanity Brant is spreading awareness about the opportunities available to families who might be interested in owning their own home through the organization’s home-building program.”We don’t exist without partner families,” Cocco said.
The non-profit organization hosted a family information session at the Brantford Visitor and Tourism Centre on Saturday morning that saw 10 families come to learn more about how the program works and to ask questions.
Formal information sessions have typically been held four times a year, but staff and volunteers are also available to meet with families interested in learning more on an individual basis.
Part of the challenge in getting families out to learn more is that many are working to pay their bills and provide for themselves day by day without thinking long-term, Cocco said.
Cocco said being selected as a Habitat for Humanity family or owning a home might seem as likely as winning the lottery to some.
“They might be thinking ‘what’s the chance I’m going to win,’ so they don’t play,” she said.
But even if families don’t qualify based on their first application, that’s not to say they won’t be approved if they apply again if something changes, such as their income.
Some of the starting criteria are that applicants must be a Brantford or a County of Brant resident for at least one year and must not already own a home.
The family selection committee reviews applications and conducts home visits with potential candidates.
Once a family is selected, they must put 500 hours of “sweat equity” in to the organizations.
That can completed in many ways, including on the home building sites, volunteering at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore or helping with clerical work at the Habitat for Humanity office.
Each parent in the home must complete 150 hours themselves. Friends and family can help make up the remaining time.
“Sweat equity” hours must be completed before the family moves in to the home.
When these families are able to afford their own homes, the whole city benefits, Cocco said.
While families must still pay the closing costs, having a little extra money means people are able to help beautify their neighbourhood by planting flowers on their property and invest in the community by spending money in local restaurants.
“It’s all about removing the barriers,” Cocco said.
While no Habitat for Humanity homes were built last year, Cocco is hoping shovels will hit the dirt in 2014 or as soon as weather is permitting in 2015.
Habitat for Humanity came to Canada in 1985 and now has 85 affiliates in 10 provinces. In Brantford, there are currently 18 Habitat for Humanity homes.
The Habitat for Humanity ReStore, at 408 Henry St. in Brantford, is having a 50 per cent off sale on Saturday. The largest fundraising program of Habitat, the ReStore sells new and used building supplies, furnishings, home decor, appliances and seasonal items.
By Natalie Paddon