Habitat wants to build, fix up homes in Howell


Staff Writer

HOWELL — The holiday season traditionally is a time of giving.

It is that giving spirit that the Western Monmouth Habitat for Humanity wants to tap into and, perhaps, change a few lives.

Habitat representatives are looking for people who can help continue to make the dreams of home ownership come true for many people who work but find themselves unable to afford a home in a region where the average price of a resale home is nearing $350,000.

Anyone with land that can be donated or structures that need life breathed back into them is encouraged to contact Habitat for Humanity. The housing construction charity will take the donation and help another family build its piece of the American dream.

William J. Seifert, Habitat for Humanity’s executive director, and James Wishbow, the organization’s site selector, came before the Township Council recently to explain their mission.

Seifert, of Howell, said the idea behind the original Habitat for Humanity was, “A hand up, not a handout.” He said Habitat is a grass-roots organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing. It was started almost 30 years ago in Georgia.

According to Seifert, the process used in choosing recipients is “fair, objective and nondiscriminatory” and is based on the need for shelter as well as the family’s ability to pay the mortgage, taxes, utilities and maintenance.

The selected family does not get a “free ride” with the building or rehabilitation of any structure, but instead must demonstrate the willingness to put “sweat equity” into the project, the pair said.

According to Seifert, there are 24 affiliates of Habitat for Humanity throughout New Jersey.

He said the local chapter was formed in 1989 as the Freehold Area Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. It was recently renamed the Western Monmouth Habitat for Humanity to show area residents it is comprised of local people who are committed to helping their neighbors.

“We improve the community by improving people’s lives,” said Seifert, who noted the chapter has built or rehabilitated more than 15 homes in Freehold Borough.

According to Seifert, volunteers conduct fund-raising efforts, select sites, find a family and then go to work building a home.

When the work is finished, Seifert said, the new homeowner purchases the home at a reduced rate with a no interest, 20- to 30-year mortgage.

Seifert said local Habitat sponsors include the Nestle Corporation, U.S. Home and Home Depot.

Seifert and Wishbow told the mayor and council their biggest need at this time is land.

Township Manager Bruce Davis asked if the organization was strictly interested in obtaining vacant land for the construction of new homes or also in rehabilitating existing homes.

The men said they do both but, Seifert said, “We kind of like rehabs.”

Seifert said they were giving the presentation in order to get the word out “that we’re here.” He said he hopes local churches and others will be able to help the organization put something together so “we can do something in our own back yard.”