For the 12th consecutive year, local families have an opportunity to change their future trajectory and access affordable mortgages, largely due to Santa Fe College and Alachua County Habitat for Humanity.
Alachua County Habitat for Humanity works to create affordable housing for underserved communities, with 176 houses being created through help from local communities, partners and volunteers.
Gainesville ranked below average in Florida cities with the most affordable homes even before the steady rise of rents across the country. The city sat at 35 out of 53 surveyed cities with a population of more than 60,000, according to 2017 census data.
No construction institute facility existed when Beth Kurtzman, a Gainesville resident and the organization’s construction director, went through SFC’s program.
She has worked alongside SFC students for 11 years.
The project begins in the Charles R. Perry Construction Institute each August. Student plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians and builders each take on a piece of the project until the house is entirely built.
“Sometimes Santa Fe College gets a grant for all of the material money,” Kurtzman said. “But if they don't, we purchase the materials, and they install them.”
The students’ involvement allows them to grow in their construction skills, said Silvia Novelli, a professor at SFC.
“In drafting, they are very fresh about the construction elements,” Novelli said. “When they get to really build the house, they already have the base knowledge of everything.”
SFC students built the house in two separate portions at a gym-sized factory, and a member of Habitat for Humanity visited SFC weekly for quality control.
The house was transported to the site and set on the foundation, allowing volunteers to gather on Saturdays. They will begin insulating the home, installing the drywall and painting the home. The house will be inspected for a certificate of occupancy, and afterward, the family partner purchases and closes on the home, similar to a traditional mortgage.
Tom Mason, a recruiter for the construction and technical programs at SFC, said the program greatly benefits the students because it prepares them for the workforce.
“Almost all of them have a job lined up before graduation because the needs of the construction industry right now is acute, just kind of like almost at a crisis level in terms of skilled labor.” Mason said.
To become a homeowner with Habitat for Humanity, applicants need to meet specific requirements like being between 30 percent to 80 percent of the median income in Alachua County and having a specific debt-to-income ratio.
Alachua Habitat for Humanity tries to make the mortgage less than 30 percent of the homeowner's monthly income for applicants.
Once accepted, the homeowner must put in 250 hours of sweat equity. The sweat equity includes taking financial literacy courses, homeowner classes, cooking classes, and how to paint walls, put up walls, install drywall and lay sod. The entire process, from application to move-in day, takes over a year and the particular home will be complete by November.
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Gabriel Velasquez Neira is a second-year Journalism major, and the Audio Editor and Metro GA Reporter. In his free time, he enjoys sleeping, taking photos and playing guitar.