Habitat for Humanity opens applications for Live Oak project
The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity announced Wednesday that it is accepting applications for a six-unit project in Live Oak. As Family Services Manager Everardo Jaime Jr. — who was a recipient of the program in 2011 — said, “a lot of families would be surprised that they would be a fit — giving it a shot is important.”
The local chapter of Habitat for Humanity announced Wednesday it has opened the application process for six homes in Live Oak, part of the group’s efforts to increase homeownership across income levels.
Santa Cruz County has seen a stark increase in home prices over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Research from Zillow showed a 25.8% increase — to $1.1 million — in the median price of a single-family home between August 2020 and August 2021.
Those increases make it increasingly difficult, and in many cases impossible, for families to afford to purchase a home.
Betsy Powers of Habitat’s Monterey Bay chapter said that the Rodeo Creek Court development has 11 homes, with six units left to be built. Of those six units, five are to be three-bedroom units — one with accessibility features for a family member with a disability — and one is a two-bedroom with ADA accessibility.
“Santa Cruz is probably one of the most expensive and fastest-growing areas,” Powers said, adding that the group’s efforts are only a small part of the region’s needs. “There’s a lack of new construction and lots of limits to what can be built and where.”
Powers said Habitat for Humanity sees itself as lending an extra hand to those who need it, with the larger aim of providing the stability that ownership brings.
“It’s important to have that stability for their kids, their future and their families that homeownership provides, especially in this area where a lot of people who are from here and grew up here are being priced out — and that’s a lot of people we get applying,” she said.
After the organization approves households — verifying their ability to pay an affordable mortgage and to partner in building their home — building and moving in takes approximately 14 months. That partnership is often referred to as “sweat equity” and can take many forms, though a common one is helping in the physical construction of the home.
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Everardo Jaime Jr. works as the family services manager for Habitat’s Monterey Bay branch, and has first-hand experience with the organization spanning a decade. In 2011, his family received a home from the Portland branch while he was in high school.
“If a family of four is making $111,000 in this area, that is still considered low-income — that’s 80% of the [area median income],” he said. “There are a significant amount of individuals who maybe don’t think of themselves as low-income, but when accounted for, it’s actually a lot more than people think. Low-income is a tangible thing that can be measured.”
As of Wednesday, the group had received 20 to 25 applications for the Rodeo Creek Court development.
Powers and Jaime said they are seeking to partner with the City of Santa Cruz after they complete the project. Powers said Habitat is currently working with the city to create so-called granny flats — especially in relation to new state rules making it easier to build them — but it’s really a mix of all housing opportunities for the area’s needs.
“Eleven single-family homes is not a 200-unit rental complex, but we’re doing what we can and keeping true to our mission,” Powers said.
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Jaime encouraged people who are unsure of their eligibility to apply. His own family applied multiple times before being approved, he said, but the benefits associated with homeownership made the wait worth it.
“A lot of mental and physical health and education success is tied to homeownership,” he said. “A lot of families would be surprised that they could fit into Habitat’s program, and how in reach homeownership would be — giving it a shot is important.”