Sam Lawrence said he has been building his relationship with Habitat for Humanity since he was a child when he went to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore to source construction items his dad needed to build a house.

Lawrence spoke with Community Impact about community benefits the local nonprofit provides, financials, demographics and more. This interview was edited for length, clarity and style.

What is the purpose of Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat’s mission is putting God’s love into action through people to build a community of hope.

What are the demographics of Habitat homeowners?

There’s really no profile. Whoever applies and works through the process to have this dream for themselves can do it.

When people look at affordable housing, they think we’re helping people who made bad choices in their life, and they need this because they don’t have any other options. The reality of it is that barista over there needs affordable housing. A lot of your firemen, police officers, small-business owners, local government workers are low- to moderate-income individuals.

How many houses does Habitat for Humanity Collin County build in a year?

We do about five houses a year, but this doesn’t meet the need. To meet it you have to have partnerships leveraging banks that are more interested in the affordable housing market, and also we have to create innovative ways to work with banks that aren’t just 0% financing situations. We have to think of ways for banks to make money in this space so we can build multiple affordable housing developments like The Cotton Groves in McKinney.

How does a person qualify for a Habitat for Humanity house?

They go through our family services process, which we opened back up as of July 1. We had homeowners sitting on a list waiting for [The Cotton Groves] to be developed. We have some people who’ve been on the list for three years. They fill out an application in person or online, and requirements are income based. Cotton Groves, for example, is 60% average income of Collin County or less. The average income of Collin County is currently $110K.

One of the stigmas we face is people think we give houses away, that is absolutely not true. When someone applies to qualify for a home, if you gain qualifications, you’re put on a list with others who qualify. Before you can select a lot to build a home on, you have to provide 25% sweat equity. You work on other people’s houses, or in our ReStore. At the end of the day, these people don’t get zero-dollar mortgages, they get 0% finance mortgages. It’s based on what they can afford.

We also do a lot more home repair work in Plano than new builds. This drastically affects people who are aging in place.

What involvement do homeowners have in the process?

They get to choose where they want to live if it’s available, or they can wait for a space where they want to live. They do not get to pick a specific floor plan, but they do get to pick flooring, tile—things that make this house their home. We have three- and four-bedroom townhomes, duplexes and single-family homes.

Who pays for homeowner’s insurance, house upkeep?

They do. Part of the benefit of working with Habitat is we provide financial education for our homeowners.

What happens to a Habitat home when the homeowner wants to sell?

Habitat has first right of refusal on any sell. If they [the homeowner] want to sell a home, Habitat has the right to purchase it back first that way it stays in the affordable housing market. From that point, we can sell it to another affordable home owner. A new home's mortgage can be from $180,000-$270,000 appraisal.

Who builds Habitat for Humanity homes?

Homes are built by volunteers but not 100%. In Texas, mechanical, electrical, structural and plumbing are done by subcontractors because that is skilled work and requires licensed professionals. Seventy-percent of the work is done by the skilled professionals and 30% by volunteers.

We have a set standard construction manual we utilize. We’re also regulated by local government authority to follow all required regulations for construction. Cities do reduce fees for us which is great. From starting to build the structure to the closing process takes about a year.