It could be all over here for Habitat


By Patsy Nicosia

Schoharie County's Habitat for Humanity may have hammered its last nail.
Since about 1995, the affiliate has built five homes for families who've traded sweat equity for zero-interest mortgages.
But John Rose, the last standing board member and by default, its executive director, isn't sure the program works here any more.
That's largely because the families that qualify can't afford what's likely to be a $875 a month mortgage once property taxes and things like heat and electric are added in.
It's also because without a board of at least six to eight directors, even alternatives like rehabbing homes aren't viable.
Just half-dozen people turned out for a Habitat interest meeting Monday in Schoharie.
A second meeting will likely be held after the first of the year, but at stake is whether Habitat reorganizes and continues-or dissolves.
If Habitat dissolves, it would liquidate its assets and then donate them to charity, Mr. Rose said.
"It's not necessarily a bad thing if we say this is something that's no longer viable," he said.
"But if there's a glimmer..."
Habitat families must contribute 400 hours of work toward their home.
When it's finished-the rest of the labor is all-volunteer-they get a zero-interest mortgage, usually for 20 years.
But with increasing property taxes and other costs, that means qualifying families need to be making about $50,000 a year; it used to be about half that, Mr. Rose said.
"There just aren't the jobs here for those kinds of incomes," he said.
And in Jefferson, where Habitat owns property, they haven't built anything because jobs are too far away and no one who might qualify wants to or can afford to commute, he said.
"Is there a need? Is there work for these families? All these things play into it," he said.
Even before Irene and Lee, Mr. Rose said, Habitat was looking at changing its focus toward rehabilitating existing homes, but that brings with it its own problems: Stricter building codes and asbestos to name two.
More importantly, he said, someone would have to be willing-and qualified-to find and evaluate homes and projects and see them through.
When Habitat was up and running with a full board and generating a quarterly newsletter, Mr. Rose said, they had no trouble getting donations; in fact, he said, they've backed off on taking them because they aren't building homes.
"That kind of support is there," he said. "And so are volunteers to help build. But without a board..."
Anyone interested in Habitat or with thoughts on keeping it going-or dissolving it-can contact Mr. Rose at 234-4016.