Habitat FAQ


What is Habitat for Humanity?

Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa (Habitat GO) is volunteer-based, non-profit, non-governmental organization that builds simple, decent homes for low income working families. Habitat GO sells the homes they build with a no-interest mortgage to families seeking an affordable home in which to raise their families. Habitat GO achieves its mission by partnering with homeowners, corporate sponsors, donors and volunteers.

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What is Habitat's mission?

To mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.

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How does the Habitat program work?

Through volunteer labour, efficient management and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, Habitat GO builds (and, in some cases, rehabilitates) simple, decent houses with the help of the homeowner (or partner) families. Habitat GO houses are sold to partner families and are financed with affordable, no-interest mortgages.

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How large is the Habitat for Humanity organization?

Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat International is headquartered in Americus, Georgia, U.S.A. Habitat for Humanity International (HfHI) works in over 100 countries. Habitat for Humanity has been operating in Canada since 1985 and there are currently 58 affiliates in all 10 provinces and territories and served over 300 Canadian communities.

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When did Habitat for Humanity come to the Greater Ottawa area?

Habitat GO has been operating in the Greater Ottawa area since 1993 and is governed by a 15-member volunteer Board of Directors. Operations depend on a volunteer base of more than 1,000 people.

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How many houses has Habitat built?

Habitat International has successfully built over 300,001 houses worldwide and housed more than one million family members. This success means that approximately every 15 minutes somewhere in the world, a family receives keys to their new Habitat home. Since 1993, Habitat GO is proud to have provided affordable and safe housing in the Greater Ottawa area by building 53 homes.

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What makes Habitat different from other not-for-profit builders?

Almost everything we do!

  1. Habitat is a movement within a local community. Habitat continually strives to partner with the community in every aspect of its organization. Volunteers are key in our organization, serving on our Board of Directors, committees and helping build our houses.
  2. Habitat is a hand up, not a hand out. Habitat understands that low-income families do not need or want charity, but rather a helping hand out of the cycle of poverty.
  3. Habitat charges no interest on the mortgage extended to the family. Habitat requires that the family contribute 500 volunteers hours (called sweat equity) to the construction of their home.

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What's the most common myth about the affordable housing crisis?

Many people believe that there is nothing they can do to help solve the affordable housing crisis. Habitat works -- not because one particular organization is financially supporting it -- but rather because the general public is behind it. Everyone touched by Habitat has resources that can help further the work of Habitat. Everyone counts with Habitat!

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How is a partner family chosen?

Habitat families are families in need of affordable housing who want to help themselves and others to become homeowners. They must view our online Homeownership Information Session to fill out a Home Application Form. Click here for the video.

In the application form we ask about:

  1. The family
  2. Financial and employment situations
  3. Current housing conditions
  4. Willingness to partner with Habitat in future projects

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How are applications screened?

Applications are screened for eligibility based on three basic criteria.

  1. Degree of a family’s need
  2. The ability to pay a 20- or 30-year interest-free mortgage
  3. A family’s willingness to contribute 500 volunteer hours to Habitat GO and to be a good will “ambassador” for us.

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How long does it take to apply for a Habitat home?

The application process is thorough and can take as long as four months. Applications are accepted at set times throughout the year. Call 613-749-9950 ext. 225 for more information. The Family Selection Committee, composed of dedicated volunteers from the community, review all applications and then make a recommendation to the Board of Directors.

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Are there choices in house design?

We have a basic house design that can be tailored according lot size and family size. We stick to a certain design to ensure that construction is “volunteer friendly”, cost effective, and keeping with Habitat’s guidelines of simple decent homes.

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How many bedrooms are there?

Habitat GO typically builds three-bedroom houses. Families are selected before finalizing the house plans, allowing us to tailor house plans to meet specific family situations.

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If a homeowner has special needs such as wheelchair access etc., will this be taken into consideration?

Yes; we will take into consideration special needs and build to reflect those needs.

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Do houses have basements?

Yes; assuming the location, the type of home and building codes permit a basement.

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Can an addition to the house be built?

Additions to the house can be built by the homeowner, but only with a building permit. Should an addition be built without a permit and if Habiat GO takes possession of the house for whatever reason, Habitat GO will charge the cost of removing the addition from the property and add this to the overall cost of the house.

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What are sweat equity/volunteer hours?

Habitat GO requires each family to commit 500 hours of their time volunteering for the Habitat affiliate. Single-parent families need to complete 350 hours There is no compensation for these volunteer hours. Examples of how to accumulate volunteer hours include: constructing one’s own home or the homes of others; participating in publicity and fundraising events; office work; and attending family orientation meetings. Family and/or friends can also contribute required hours. 

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What types of activities qualify for sweat equity?

  • Habitat build site activities as assigned by the construction supervisor
  • Habitat Home Education Courses (count as double hours)
  • Pre-approved home improvement classes at Home Depot/Reno Depot or equivalent (count as double hours)
  • With the approval of the Family Partner, a maximum of 50 hours of sweat equity requirements can be fulfilled through volunteerism with another community organization
  • A maximum of 50 hours of sweat equity can be contributed through school credits from both adults and children
  • Habitat Restore volunteer hours may be used
  • Administrative work as needed at the Habitat GO office
  • Speaking engagements and media interviews, including Groundbreaking and Dedication ceremonies

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How much would a monthly mortgage payment be?

Habitat homes are sold to families based on the appraised value of the house. The long-term mortgage is repaid with monthly payments that are based upon the family’s income and will never exceed 25% of the total household income. Monthly mortgage payments include house payments, insurance and property taxes. Habitat GO reviews the monthly amount paid once each year.

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Can I sell my home after having lived in it for a few years?

Habitat GO retains all rights on the house should the homeowner wish to sell via its “Buy Back Policy.” Habitat GO has first right of refusal on the home and will in turn sell that home to another deserving Habitat GO family.

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Can the property be left in a will?

Yes, when the mortgage has been paid in full. The home may be left in a will just like any other homeowner.

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If a family’s financial position improves in order to allow them the ability to buy a second property such as a cottage, can they do that?

If a family’s financial position has improved that significantly to allow the purchase of another property, they would be deemed to be able to get conventional mortgage financing through a bank or another lender and be requested to pay off the mortgage to Habitat GO. This would then allow Habitat GO to use those funds to help another family get started in their life as a homeowner.

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Will bankruptcy affect an application?

This depends on the timing of the bankruptcy and where the applicant is in the process when they apply to Habitat GO. One may be insolvent but the bankruptcy may not have been discharged or the bankruptcy may have been discharged and is now in the seven-year waiting period. Each condition will be assessed fairly however recent bankruptcy will require additional investigation.

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What if there is not a credit history?

Signed statements from a landlord, bank, hydro and other organizations that are dealt with on an ongoing basis can be good sources of credit history in the absence of a formal credit history.

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For purposes of obtaining a credit record, will the payment record be recorded with the Credit Bureau?

To date, Habitat GO mortgages have not been reported to the Credit Bureau.

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Must total income be reported or just full-time income only?

Habitat GO looks at total household income, including, but are not limited to child tax credits, support payments, disability pensions as examples. Homeowners must disclose all income of all family members.

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Is there an age limitation established for children when they are living at home?

There are no age limitations. Habitat GO uses household income of all adults living in the home.

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Volunteer Opportunities

Click below to see our current opportunities.

VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITIES

Volunteer Application

Click the button below to visit our volunteer application site.

Volunteer Application

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