With mortgages, foreclosures and storm damage still slamming homeowners in the borough, and affordable housing an issue throughout the city, Habitat for Humanity chose a fortuitous time to return to Queens with a major initiative that will refurbish or rebuild more than 30 houses in the coming months.
Phase one, which broke ground at a home in Rosedale last Saturday, will result in a dozen houses in Southeast Queens being fixed up, sold and returned to the city’s tax rolls.
Five of the homes will be completed as part of the 2013 Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project, marking the 30th anniversary of the former president’s commitment to Habitat for Humanity.
The 39th President and Mrs. Carter are scheduled to work alongside Habitat volunteers to refurbish a Queens Village home on Oct. 11.
When phase one is completed, there will be three good-as-new homes in Queens Village; four in Springfield gardens, and single homes in Cambria Heights, St. Albans, Jamaica, Hollis and Rosedale.
Speaking before a meeting of Community Board 12 on Sept. 18, Paul Thibault and Nica Bautista of Habitat for Humanity said the program is not as easy to qualify for as some might believe.
“We require applicants to put in some sweat equity,” Thibault said, adding that some who qualify have put in hundreds of hours of volunteer time on their homes and others.
A total of 38 homes, including those in phase one, were obtained through the New York City Housing Authority, or NYCHA, and often are buildings that the authority could not otherwise sell, buildings that need much attention and investment, buildings that sometimes have become eyesores in their neighborhoods.
They can go for $200,000 to $300,000, and the buyers must qualify for mortgages. But in some cases they also can place a down payment of as little as 1 percent to secure a fixed-rate, 30-year mortgage at a 2 percent interest rate.
“It takes about eight to 12 months to go from the application to owning a home,” Thibault said. The applicants also must be first-time homebuyers, though that definition can mean not owning a home in the previous three years.
Applicants can have no bankruptcies or bills in collection, and must be earning between 50 and 80 percent of the area median income.
Habitat for Humanity New York City has restored 260 homes in the five boroughs.
The Carters’ itinerary will include a stop at a 19-unit building on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, the site of their first work project in 1984. Habitat for Humanities New York City CEO Neil Hetherington said the organization benefits greatly from their continued help.
“Working alongside Habitat for Humanity families and volunteers, President and Mrs. Carter have given the world a powerful expression of how to live out change,” he said. “...We are deeply grateful for their time, talent and sweat at habitat for Humanity New York City.”