What a difference a year makes.  If you had driven through the A Price Woodard Neighborhood in spring 2014, you might have thought a tornado came through.  There were mounds and mounds of debris.  The neighborhood had become a favorite site for illegal dumping and nothing but snakes and varmints dared to venture from the curb into the overgrown lots.

Now, the streets are lined with beautiful homes, with well-groomed lawns, fenced back yards and the homeowners are beaming with pride.  What happened in a year, was the work of many, but it was all under the direction of Wichita’s Habitat for Humanity.   A non-profit organization, Habitat changes lives by providing people in need with decent and affordable housing.  They recognize that decent housing is a stabilizing factor in a family’s life. 

In Wichita, a great deal of Habitat building had been as larger scale developments, like the 42 unit Edgebroook Village, the organization built between 2005 and 2010.  With their new Northeast Wichita program, called Rock the Block, Habitat has moved away from planned housing developments to a program that breathes new life into a declining community.  

The Rock the Block project boundaries are from 9th to 13th Streets and Grove to Hillside.  

“When we picked this area, the city had improved 9th and 13th, said Ann Fox, Habitat’s Executive Director.  “We love have a great school and a grocery store within walking distance.”

The area also has great access to the bus lines, there are ample employment opportunities in the area and the Health Department is just down the street.  Add in quick access to I-135 and Kellogg and Fox says, the area was a natural pick for Habitat. 

What sealed the deal was the number of available vacant lots in the area.  Of the 604 lots in that area, 103 are vacant.  That saves the organization the cost of demolition and gives them enough inventory to make an impact on the area. 

Rocking the Block means coming in, making as big of an improvement on a block as they can, before moving on to the next block.  The project got underway in April 2015 in the 1200 block of Poplar.  They constructed six new homes in the block and helped several other property owners renovate.  Now, they’re “rocking” the 1200 Block on Green.

One of the great things about the Habitat program is that the applicants don’t have to qualify for a bank loan.  Habitat finances their homes at 0% interest over 20 years.  That helps make homeownership accessible to a lot more people, who can afford to make the payments, but have less than perfect credit. 

You may be eligible for a Habitat Home if you have a:

  1. Need for housing:  You must currently be living in substandard, overcrowded, temporary or unsafe living conditions, or be paying over 30% of income on housing and utility costs, or have not been able to obtain a conventional bank loan.
  2. Ability to Pay:  You must have a steady income that is sufficient to repay the 20-year, 0% interest mortgage and monthly living expenses.  There are both minimum and maximum income requirements, tied to the size of your family.  For example, the minimum annual income for a household with four members is $21,805 and the maximum is $43,735. 
  3. Willingness to Partner with Habitat:  Applicants are required to invest time and effort through Habitat’s financial education and homeownership classes (40 hours), save money to cover their closing costs ($2,000) and complete between 250 and 400 hours of “Sweat Equity” in their home. 

Habitat homes are three, four, or five bedroom units.  The number of bedrooms depends on the size of the family.  The 3 bedroom homes are 1151 Sq. Ft. and have1 bathroom and 1 single car garage.  The  4 and 5 bedroom homes have 2 baths and a single car garage.  The 3 bedroom plans are 1,385 sq ft. 

In the Rock the Block area, the City of Wichita is helping out by investing in every home.  They’re covering the cost of the garage, brick on the front, a fenced back yard and sod for the front yard.  The city’s investment is worth $20,000 and if you stay in the home for 10 years, they forgive half of their investment. 

Habitat sells the houses for less than it costs to build them.  For example, a 3 bedroom homes cost Habitat $104,000 to build but since they appraise at $75,000, that’s the maximum selling price.  The homeowners pay nothing down, but they are required to pay $2,000 in closing costs at their mortgage signing.  The $2,000 covers 14 months of homeowner’s insurance and two months of property taxes.  The monthly payments, including property taxes and insurance, are approximately $500 on a 3 bedroom home.   

The houses are fairly standard, but there are few options for customization.  The family gets to pick their flooring and style of light fixtures.  They are also given an option of a cement patio at the back of the house or a full-front porch.  In addition, Whirlpool donates $1,000 to each homeowner to purchase appliances at cost.  Among the favorite appliances is a washer and dryer, says Fox. 

The amount of time from selection to homeownership is normally 8-18 months.

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