Updated: Apr 29
J. Fred Volk, Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County Board President Shares his thoughts on First Time Home Ownership and the work Habitat does to make it accessible to more families in Cheyenne.
As a part of a four-generation family of realtors doing business in Cheyenne for almost 90 years, I’ve been listing, selling, and marketing real estate as a career for two decades. Its an especially rewarding experience to help someone grab and hold on to a piece of the American Dream with the purchase of a first home. It’s one of the reasons I joined Habitat’s Board of Directors a few years ago and am proud to currently serve as its President. Today, Habitat stands on the shoulders of so many who have worked tirelessly to make it an organization that’s been building strength, stability, and self-reliance since 1991. A big part of what we do, and one we direct a large part of our effort to, is providing affordable housing to clients that need safe housing, and would likely not be able to obtain it for some time. Essentially: we obtain suitable land, plan homes on that land, obtain permits to build, obtain materials for the build through purchases and donations, and then build homes with a largely volunteer workforce that includes high school students and community members working alongside our partner families. The prospective homeowners are chosen by an application process and screening that includes need, financial ability, ability to adhere to the requirements such as the 400 hours they have to put in on the house build. They must have a stable work history and qualify for the payments, as well as save money for their closing costs. It is a rigorous process, but worthwhile.
One of the aspects of the Habitat model is that our new homeowners start contributing to the construction of the next project from their very first mortgage payment.This cycle continues through the life of the mortgage. Our partner families build the strength and stability inherent of home-ownership, create equity in their home, and help Habitat cover the costs of more affordable housing. Its a truly virtuous cycle that makes our community a better place to call home.
Jose and Lynette Duran, 2019 Habitat Partner family feeling the joy of becoming homeowners after spending months building alongside community volunteers.
The foundation of Habitat's model is to be a hand up, not the “hand-out”. The community helps a family achieve the dream of home ownership, and that family immediately gets to help the next family with achieve the same. The whole thing takes an amazing amount of coordination, resources, and funding--- things that we work on year-round to achieve. To see our community come together and our partner family succeed in achieving part of their dreams… THAT is the epitome of first time home-ownership. It is quite heady stuff to be there from the beginning of the process: seeing the owners when they are first told that they have been chosen, watching the process as they build their house with their own hands and stars in their eyes, seeing the struggle and choices made, and then seeing them sign on the dotted line making themselves homeowners. These are those moments when you are so proud of what we can all be, and why I love our community. In March I got to say “here are the keys to YOUR home, please enjoy the fruits of all of our labors”. We build these homes together and I have been lucky enough to be a part of eight Habitat partner families getting a home of their very own in the last few years. It still makes my heart swell.
Habitat partner families purchase their homes at the end of the process. Mortgages are kept affordable by using volunteer labor and donated and discounted materials. As partner families like the Favelas make monthly payments, they gain equity in their home while financially contributing to the building of more affordable homes.
I believe its incumbent upon those of us that have been given blessings in life to reach back and help another rise, even a little bit if we can. Habitat for Humanity gives us that opportunity in a way that can fundamental change the lives of the families we serve for generations to come. It’s a gift that just doesn’t stop giving. This year, Habitat for Humanity is building a new home alongside the Stephenson family on Sonata Lane. We’ll also be working on our first Veteran Build, exclusively for veterans with support from our local Credit Unions. In the coming years, we will be building more houses—though we need more land for this—and hopefully remodeling more homes to eliminate blight and improve our existing neighborhoods. If you’d like to support these worthy efforts, feel free to donate and/or shop at our local ReStore full for re-purposed household items. You can even shop from the comfort of home and enjoy curbside pickup!
Thank you all for joining me in tipping our hat to the joy of home ownership and being a part of something so good.
J Fred Volk is a Broker Associate with #1 properties and the President of Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County's Board of directors.
Since 1991, Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County has been building strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter in Cheyenne. In 2020 the affiliate will complete its 50th affordable home for a partner family that will contribute over 400 hours of "sweat equity"to the construction of their home.