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Habitat Homeowners in the time of Covid-19

One of the pillars of Habitat for Humanity's ability to build is the mortgage payments it receives from partner families. Each time Habitat completes the construction of an affordable home; it is sold to the partner family with an affordable, zero-interest mortgage. The payments are then utilized to build affordable housing for the next partner family and the next throughout the life of the mortgage. "A lot of people think we give homes away, but that it's not the case," says Habitat Board President, J Fred Volk. "Our partner families contribute hundreds of hours of sweat equity towards the construction of their home and then purchase the property at the end of the process. It's just like a traditional mortgage, except they won't be paying interest on the note, and payments are immediately reinvested in the next projects Habitat builds." He added. The philosophy behind the idea is the Habitat credo of "offering a hand-up, not a hand-out" to those we serve. Habitat doesn't build a home for a family; we make a home alongside a family. It's an important distinction because a part of the process is the new homeowner being able to turn around and support the next family by making their mortgage and escrow payments each month.

2020 Partner Family head, Jaime Stephenson (on the right) logging some sweat equity hours on his future home.

It's an innovative idea that works. In 2020, Habitat for Humanity of Laramie County will complete its 50th affordable home in Cheyenne. That means 50 families (including 130 children) get to know the strength, stability, and self-reliance inherent of homeownership in homes built by our loving community.

Habitat's 2019 Partner Families, the Durans and the Favelas closed on their homes earlier this year. Their payments are already being used to build the Stephenson's home on Sonata Lane.

In the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew all of our partner families would be impacted in one way or another and that some would experience a decrease or loss of wages. Our family support committee and homeowner finance team already maintain excellent communication with our homeowners faced with challenges that come up for all families from time to time. Financial hardships can usually be overcome with alternative payment plans, and Habitat homeowners have an almost non-existent rate of foreclosure during normal times. But what would happen if multiple families experienced hardship simultaneously? How would that impact our 2020 build season? (Especially since all Spring fundraising plans had to be postponed).

While we braced for the worst, we heard from so many of our partner families that they were feeling the impacts of the crisis, but that they were still able to make their monthly payments. It struck us that many of our partners find themselves on a strong foundation of owning a home they can afford. We are so thankful for this security in their lives, and for the safe houses, they can shelter in with their families.

A few families asked that their payments be reduced if they paid as much as they could, and arrangements were made to accommodate their situations. We are so proud of each of these homeowners for being open and honest about their circumstances, while maintaining their awareness of how vital those monthly mortgage payments are, not only to their bottom line but also to Habitat's ability to keep building.

When Dan Dorsch, and Thrivent Financial's Jeff Solomonson, heard about homeowners impacted by the crisis, they wanted to help. They reached out to Danielmarks Brewery with the idea of "Crowlers for Covid Relief", a fundraiser that supports our local business community while raising money for those facing economic harm from the crisis. Danielmarks owners Kim and Mark Coombs, were eager to help out, having supported Habitat and many other causes with fundraisers in the past.

This Saturday, May 9 from 1-4 PM

DanielMarks will donate a $1 from each crowler sold, and Thrivent Financial will match it, doubling your impact in our community! Additionally, every $5 donated on top of that earns you a beer coupon to use at a later date of your choice! Visit for online purchasing and curbside pickup OR call (307) 514-0411 to arrange for curbside that way.

You can support a locally owned business, enjoy some great beer on a (hopefully) warm Wyoming spring Saturday, and help #keephabitatbuilding at the same time!

Proceeds will assist Habitat partner families facing economic hardship, stay on top of their mortgage payments, and current on their property taxes (due in May). With the support of the community, these families who have already worked so hard to achieve the dream of homeownership will remain on the stable foundation they have built for themselves alongside a supportive community that believes everyone deserves a decent place to call home.

If beer is not your thing, you can also donate directly to the Habitat Homeowner Relief fund. Your donation will help an existing partner family in need to stay current with their monthly mortgage payments, which will help #keephabitatbuilding during the crisis. Funds will also ensure that homeowners remain current with their property taxes. Make your donation here.

Thank you for all you're doing to show your love and support of the Cheyenne businesses and non-profits serving the needs of our beautiful community! We are so glad to be your neighbor.

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