Just before Christmas, Rochelle Thom and her children settled in to their brand-new Habitat for Humanity home in Swannanoa, N.C. Rochelle, a kitchen manager working for Sodexo at Warren Wilson College, is a first-time homeowner and a single mom who has worked hard to create a better life for her two children.
Originally from Guyana, Rochelle moved to Newark, New Jersey in 1996 and worked two jobs, seven days a week. She lived in an unsafe neighborhood, and after her daughter was born in 2004 she resolved to find a safer community. She saved for four years and in 2008 relocated to Asheville, NC.
Rochelle was able to afford a rental home outside of Asheville in the mountains. It was beautiful in the summer, but one winter there was so much snow that she couldn’t drive to town to buy food for her children. She ultimately had to walk to town with her young children in tow.
Rochelle thought homeownership was unattainable until a friend told her about Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH). With Habitat, monthly mortgage payments (including escrow) are just $475-$575 a month. The houses are built primarily by volunteers, so homeowners pay only for the land and the cost of materials through a 30-year, interest-free mortgage held by Habitat. Homeowners also put in a minimum of 200 hours of “sweat equity” (volunteer service) before closing on their house. They help build their home and the homes of their Habitat neighbors, they volunteer in the Habitat ReStore, and they attend homeownership preparation classes.
In addition to homeownership, Habitat offers a Home Repair program for people who already own a home but, due to financial constraints, haven’t been able to make necessary repairs. Habitat offers qualified homeowners an affordable, 0% interest, short-term loan for the work done which enables people to live better and longer in their own homes. Services include painting, roof repairs, modifications for accessibility and more.
It took time for Rochelle to qualify for Habitat’s homeownership program. She paid off a car loan to improve her credit, and made sure she had solid, consistent employment. But her persistence paid off and to anyone considering applying for a Habitat home, or for Home Repair, Rochelle says, “You should do it. It’s a good deal. Everyone (at Habitat) is so loving and encouraging and supportive. Habitat educates you in everything, so you feel comfortable…it’s a trusting relationship.”
If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about Habitat’s Homeownership or Home Repair programs, please visit ashevillehabitat.org or call 828.251.5702.
Story by Greta Bush, Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity