MOUNT VERNON — A home of one’s own has been part of the American dream for as long as anyone can remember, and the Knox County chapter of Habitat for Humanity can help individuals and families make that dream a reality.
For example, Megan and Ryan Sowul and their two young sons, Landon, 4, and Carter, 2, moved into their brand new home on Cottage Street in October.
“I love my new house,” Landon routinely tells people.
“It’s been so much better than living in a tiny little apartment,” said Megan. “The boys have their own room. They have their own bathroom. The dogs have room to go outside and play. It’s nice not to have to go up flights of stairs and deal with noises from apartments of neighbors. The boys can run around and not have to worry about somebody getting mad about it.”
Individuals/families are considered for a Habitat home if their present housing is not adequate and they are unable to obtain housing through conventional means. Inadequate housing could mean not enough bedrooms or problems with the current home such as faulty heating, water, electrical or sewage service systems.
Flawless credit is not required to qualify for a Habitat home, but there are some guidelines that must be met. The program is not for deadbeats, said Ryan.
“We both work,” he said. “We’re not like freeloaders or anything. Before, when we were renting, we just couldn’t make ends meet and save up enough for a down payment.”
The annual income guidelines for consideration by Habitat is at least 30 percent and no more than 50 percent of the median income for Knox County. The percentage of monthly income currently spent on housing is also taken into consideration, as is debt to income ratio. Applicants must also have the ability to pay the Habitat mortgage which is interest free.
Credit counseling is part of the process, and applicants must also agree to what is called a sweat equity component. A couple is expected to provide 500 hours of sweat equity. The potential homeowners do not have to do it all themselves, but can enlist the aid of family members or friends. Sweat equity credit can also be earned by attending credit counseling sessions or working in Habitat’s ReStore.
The Sowuls did do a lot of the sweat equity work themselves.
“It’s not easy work,” said Megan, “but it’s worth it. Everyone is so nice and they help out with everything.”
Ryan said he helped work on the roof, siding and putting in the kitchen cabinets. Both he and Megan helped with things like drywall installation and painting.
“Basically the only thing we didn’t do,” Megan said, “was the basic framing, the flooring, the stucco and mudding for the wall.”
Habitat for Humanity of Knox County is currently seeking applicants for the 2012 Habitat home to be located in Apple Valley. Construction on the house will begin in April.
The Sowuls would urge others to apply. “People shouldn’t be afraid to put in an application,” said Megan. “There some restrictions, but you don’t have to have perfect credit, you don’t have to make six figures a year. We almost didn’t apply. We were hesitant to do it, but we did. We didn’t think we were going to be accepted and prepared for the worst. Then they called and told us we got it and here we are. I don’t think anyone should be afraid to apply. If you don’t get it, you don’t get it. But then there is a chance you will have a new home and new friends. It’s worth it.”
The board of Habitat is hopeful that a family is selected before the Apple Valley house is started. The sooner a family is selected, the more input that family has with regard to colors, carpeting, cabinets, siding and other details.
“We were chosen a little later in the process,” Megan said, “but we got to pick out the colors, the light fixtures, everything. “
Applications are available from the Habitat office at 200 N. Main St. in the First Congregational Church or by phoning 393-1434.