Although Habitat for Humanity GTA has been helping families in the GTA for nearly thirty years, occasionally we still need to do a little myth busting around our work. This time we called upon our Family Services team to set the record straight on common misconceptions around our Partner Families.
MYTH #1 – Habitat for Humanity gives away homes for free.
“Where do I line-up?” laughs Michelle Lopes, Interim Director of Family Services. This is probably the myth that the team hears most often. Sorry folks, but it is false. Habitat partner families pay a mortgage every month. What’s unique is that Habitat for Humanity GTA homes are affordable because the mortgage is interest free with payments set at 30% of the family’s household income. In lieu of a cash down payment, the family contributes 500 hours of volunteer time to Habitat for Humanity GTA before taking possession of their home. We like to call this “Sweat Equity”.
Here’s what some of our Habitat for Humanity GTA partner families had to say on the matter:
“There are so many families, just like ours who could afford a mortgage every month, but maybe are not able to save enough for a down payment, who maybe aren’t living in the best suited conditions, who deserve to have a home to live and raise their family in.”
“I know that the house that I will live in, is one that I have worked towards building myself; whether it is volunteering at the construction sites or at the ReStore.”
“Our home did not come to us for free, we had to work very hard for it and being a homeowner is a big responsibility, we’ve learned a new system of handling life.”
MYTH #2 – Habitat for Humanity GTA homeowners are all on Government Assistance.
Our mission is to help low-income families break the cycle of poverty through homeownership. While some Habitat for Humanity homeowners receive subsidies of different kinds, the vast majority of our partners are working families.
“We have strict criteria around family incomes and family sizes to ensure our families can afford all that homeownership entails so that they are successful in their journey,” says Michelle.
When assessing income eligibility, each family is evaluated to ensure they have sufficient income to cover basic household expenses; stable income as demonstrated by a multi-year track record of continuous income; and income growth potential over time.
These last factors are particularly significant because homeownership involves expenses with utilities and other routine costs, which increase over time. In addition, homeownership requires sufficient financial stability to weather the inevitable expenses around maintenance and upkeep that occur over the life of a home.
MYTH #3 – Habitat for Humanity GTA houses bring down a neighbourhood’s property values.
Not true. Housing studies show that affordable housing has no adverse effect on neighbourhood property values. In fact, Habitat for Humanity houses have been proven to increase property values. What’s more, Habitat for Humanity homes in the GTA generate property taxes of nearly $1 Million annually.
MYTH #4 – You have to be Christian to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.
All Habitat for Humanity GTA families are Canadian citizens but beyond that, our families are selected without regard to race, religion or ethnic group.
“What’s common among all our partner families, regardless of their heritage, is a desire to fully exercise their citizenship and to be rooted in their community,” says Michelle Lopes.