News Story Printed in the Williamson Herald, Franklin, TN
A group of dedicated Realtors are prepared to exhaust their dialing fingers at a telethon to help hardworking families become homeowners in Williamson County, despite credit checks and yearly financial earnings.
The telethon, which will provide funding to Habitat for Humanity, will be comprised of volunteers from members of the Williamson County Association of Realtors, who plan to occupy their office June 20 until reaching their entire monetary goal.
"We're just going to keep calling until we raise the $30,000," said Executive Vice President Theresa Wilson. "This is the largest goal that we've had yet."
The increased property value in the county has made it difficult to provide lower income homes to people making less than the area's average income, according to Wilson who said Realtors sometimes take the blame for the high price of houses when in reality it is the market that drives it.
"Because this is an attractive area to live in, the median pricing for homes has risen so much over the last three years," Wilson said. "Affordable housing is a big issue in this county and the realtors know it."
Affordable housing is determined by the percentage spent on housing by a person (or family) who makes below the area's median income. In Williamson County's case, the average income of some residents in the community has not increased enough to compensate for the rise in property value, which makes it harder to become a homeowner, according to Wilson.
Growing issue in the county
While affordable housing is becoming more of an issue now than it has been in the past, the county's Habitat for Humanity chapter recently released a three-year project goal to build an additional 30 homes in the area.
The organization has built up to 10 homes in the county per year, but the rise in property value significantly lowered that number, according to Habitat Associate Director Steve Lewis.
Funding for the low-cost homes, Lewis said, has remained constant and currently does not provide for as much compared to previous years, which is one reason the WCAR telethon will attempt to raise their largest sum of money.
Yet, while the homes are considered to be lower-cost and affordable, they are not free.
"One of the major misconceptions that people have about Habitat is that houses are given away," Lewis said.
Those who are eligible for a Habitat home, which is any family with a combined income of $40,000 or below, must pay a 25-year mortgage of $100,000 that has no interest.
"We try to offer a hand up, not a handout," Lewis said in reference to Habitat for Humanity's unofficial mantra.
Meeting the combined income requirements does not automatically qualify a family for a habitat home since they must also pass credit checks. Potential homeowners must then pledge their time by building houses for the organization and attending financial seminars.
But only 30 percent of people who wish to purchase a Habitat home meet these requirements while the majority of applicants are turned away, according to the organization.
"Because the homes are purchased, we want these families to be able to handle the burden of payments," he said. "Our goal is to help working families in Williamson County find housing so that they can stay in our county and work in service oriented industries that people take for granted."
Habitat's goal is one that is shared by many WCAR members, who will do their part to help by participating in the telethon.
"I think Realtors are going to get more involved in all aspects of housing issues in the county so that homeownership can be a reality for everyone," Wilson said.
"Whether they're in the Governor's Club or a small apartment just starting out, Realtors are very committed to the people in the community in all stratospheres," Wilson said. "They believe in home ownership and Habitat for Humanity provides that option for folks who normally couldn't receive it.
Story reprinted from the Williamson Herald Newspaper article
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