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Luke Ferris

Seeking to put God's love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities, and hope.

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Understanding Homebuyer Education

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     The no. 1 “myth of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County” is that they build and give homes away for free. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

     Not only do Habitat Kent home buyers actually buy the home, they have to earn 300-500 hours of sweat equity in order to move in. This sweat equity includes working on their home and other Habitat Kent homes as well as participating in 40 hours of required educational programs. 

     These educational programs cultivate an understanding of owning a home. From budgeting to lawn maintenance, the knowledge learned by Habitat Kent homebuyers lasts a lifetime. 

     “Habitat taught me how to do things I often overlook in owning a home,” said Myichelle, a new Habitat Kent homeowner. “One example is cutting off the gas, it’s important but I had no idea how to do it. I even got to show my friend how to do it at her house the other day.” 

     None of the homebuying families have ever owned a home, making it essential for them to gain hands-on experience and knowledge for long-term homeownership. 

     “They’re giving something to help you, but at the same time you have to be willing to go out and learn how to take care of it,” said Keith Reid, a homebuyer who is moving into his newly rehabbed home this fall. 

     Reid said that he had very limited knowledge of homeownership responsibilities before the program. Most of his experience came from his grandmother, who he used to do yard work with him when he was a kid. 

     “She was my best friend when I was little and one of the things I remember from growing up was that we always did yard work,” Reid said. “I want my yard to look the best.”

     Reid said that now that his grandmother is older, he hopes to honor her with his new home and working in his new yard. 

     Besides yardwork and home maintenance education, the homebuyer program includes rigorous financial education. This is done through two programs: “understanding your mortgage” classes through Grand Rapids’ Inner City Christian Federation and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. 

     Homebuyer Myichelle Mays was one of the many homebuyers that was inspired to “take control of your money” in Dave Ramsey’s FPU. She still listens to her CDs from the course and even introduced it to her friends. “They love it. I’ll go over to their house and we’ll listen to the CD’s,” Myichelle said. “They keep asking me to bring the CD’s over.”

     Other required programs provided by ICCF and Habitat Kent cover topics regarding healthy homes, long term planning, neighborhood crime prevention, and further specific financial lessons.

     “In seeking homeownership, I tried to pay people money to help me get good credit, but it never worked,” said Habitat Kent homebuyer Laura Cardenas. “Habitat has not only allowed me to own a home, but also educated me so I can manage everything myself.” 

     To develop a holistic learning approach for homeownersip, Habitat Kent also connects families to food resources in the community. The families have enjoyed Habitat Kent partnering with both the Downtown Market and the Grand Rapids Community Food Club. 

     Homeowners pay a membership fee each month to shop at the food club. “They have expressed a sense of relief when they can shop at the food club,” says Gail Hollen, Director of Homeowner Services at Habitat Kent. “In particular, they like the great selection of food and fresh produce, clean environment, and friendly people.” 

     At the Downtown Market in Grand Rapids, children and teens have been going to multiple day summer camps where they learn hands on how to create fresh and healthy meals. 

     “Our families have enjoyed mostly the kids summer camps for their young children and teens,” Hollen said. “They even get to eat and take home their recipes.”

     The hope in these holistic education courses is to promote long term home ownership and set families up to thrive in the present and future. So if your friend, coworker, or whomever comes up to you and asks, “Does Habitat give away houses for free?” Hopefully you can answer that question now. Simply said, Habitat Kent “gives a hand up not a hand-out.”


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Stories change the world and change lives. As the Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Communications Specialist I desire to share these powerful stories with you. 


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Guest Wednesday, 22 November 2017


425 Pleasant Street SW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503