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Peninsula Habitat for Humanity receives most homebuyer applications ever

The need for affordable housing is outpacing resources available at the nonprofit committed to helping families achieve home ownership.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — We are all paying more in rent and mortgage and the need for affordable housing means more demand at the Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg.

Officials there say this year they’ve received the most applications for affordable homes, ever.

The nonprofit's director of family services, Meka Stewart, said the number of home applications has doubled since 2021.

“The most ever: 282 this year," Stewart said. "Last year we thought was the most ever... that was 250. Before that, let’s say before the pandemic, our average was around 140.”  

She said the need for affordable housing continues to outpace the number of homes her team can put on the market. She said crews with Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg try to build 10 affordable homes per year.

Stewart said she believes growing mortgage rates and rising home prices may be to blame for the rising application rates.

“Personally, I was surprised. I actually thought that they were going to go down after last year. I thought that was just the highest we were going to get. We were used to the effects of the pandemic and things had settled but obviously not and that’s probably because the interest rates on housing and the home prices went up so high that for some people this may be their only option," she said.

Stewart said her team expects to receive the same number of applications – or even more – next year. 

“When something affordable comes, usually our moderate or higher income families are scooping those up so that’s leaving our low to moderate incomes with almost nothing to go to or to pick from," Stewart said. "So that’s why Habitat tries to come in and fill that space.” 

Habitat homes are never given away for free. Habitat for Humanity representatives work with families toward home ownership.

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg CEO Janet Green said homeowners must help build their homes and pay an interest-free mortgage every month.  

“Everybody’s heard of Habitat for Humanity, but they think we give homes away to poor homeless people and we don’t," Green said. "Every Habitat home is built in partnership with families with low to moderate income that have to have steady employment and good credit and the ability to buy the house from Habitat.” 

She continued: “They sign a mortgage statement with us for 20 to 30 years and they pay back the no-interest affordable mortgage right back to our local Habitat and we use those funds to build even more homes for these deserving families with low to moderate incomes.” 

Green said the nonprofit relies on donations and volunteers to help make home ownership possible. If you want to volunteer, donate, or become a home buyer with Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg, you can visit habitatpgw.org.

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