Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity seeks people who want to live in Bennington

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BENNINGTON >> The local Habitat for Humanity group is looking for someone who wants a house.

Mari Bennett, community relations affiliate for Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity, said the organization purchased land on North Branch Street in March that has room for five houses. All that's needed is people to live in them, which is why the group is putting the word out for applications.

Bennett said anyone who wants a house should call 802-367-1000 to begin the process.

"Families whose income is between $25,000 (family of 2) and $59,300 (family of 8) are encouraged to look into whether a Habitat home is a suitable choice for them," reads a release put out by the group.

"It's based on the necessity, your current living conditions, your income, your ability to pay back an interest-free mortgage," Bennett said in an interview. "Property taxes are compounded with the mortgage, so it's easier for you."

The program is aimed at people who need better housing and could sustain it, but for financial reasons can't take the leap from their current situation to home ownership. A family of five in a two-bedroom apartment, for example.

"They're not going to be able to take the next step to get something larger because their rent is so much," Bennett said.

The homes are all roughly 1,200 square feet depending on a buyer's needs and are designed to be energy efficient. "So it's at low cost to heat them," she said.

"The applicant doesn't need to be from the Bennington area, but it makes sense, because of childcare and work, that they are," she said. "There are a lot of people looking for suitable housing."

She said anyone can apply, they do not need to be families.

"The homeowner has to put sweat-equity in themselves, which gives them a lot of pride," she said.

Recipients are also asked to pay for the legal fees associated with a closing, and are subject to a credit check. They also must have been employed for at least a year, "and have the means to pay back a mortgage."

Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity holds its own mortgages and sometimes takes referrals from banks.

"I think it takes courage to call," she said. "A lot of people think it's a hand-out or that it's perhaps a form of the welfare system, which it isn't. It's giving them an opportunity to become a homeowner as opposed to renting in housing that's substantial. Most families that apply are wanting a better life for their kids, it's not about themselves."

Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity builds new homes and renovates existing ones when feasible. It's been involved with a home in Bennington, two in Shaftsbury, seven in Manchester, and most recently one in Pownal.

"The materials for the home, we pay outright, Habitat does. We obtain that money through donations and fundraisers," she said. "The contactors in this area in particular are generous and give us huge discounts, 99 percent of the labor is volunteers."

— Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at 802-447-7567 Ext. 115


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