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Habitat looking for more Snoqualmie residents

SNOQUALMIE - With the real estate market spiraling into the stratosphere, it's nice to know there are still a few affordable houses left in Snoqualmie.

Habitat for Humanity of East King County just finished building two more homes on Snoqualmie Ridge and saw a couple more families happily move in. The nonprofit organization will soon pour the foundations of at least four more homes on the Ridge over the next few months and are now searching for qualified Habitat homeowners.

On Sept. 8 and 10, Habitat will hold two informational sessions at the Mount Si Senior Center. Attendees will see a presentation on Habitat and learn what the selection process entails. They can pick up an application to get started on the process if they qualify.

Habitat will begin an "open selection" process because it is still debating how many houses to build and wants to get about five or six families into the Habitat pipeline.

There are currently 26 Habitat for Humanity homes located on Snoqualmie Ridge in one neighborhood. All are occupied and 24 lots remain open and ready for more Habitat homes. Weyerhaeuser donated the land for all 50 lots in 1999 and construction began in 2000. A new community center was added to the neighborhood last spring, complete with meeting rooms, a kitchen and bathrooms for various Habitat neighborhood events.

"I think the pride that comes with owning a home has to do with being connected to the American dream," said Mia Walterson, associate executive director for Habitat for Humanity of East King County. "We try to give our homeowners the opportunities other Americans have that they wouldn't otherwise have without the Habitat for Humanity program."

To qualify for a Habitat home one must earn 50 percent below the median Snoqualmie income. That median income is at $76,000, so a family earning $38,000 or less would qualify financially, though the size of the family also factors into the equation. Family members must also be residents of the Eastside or have worked on the Eastside for at least one year. Preference will be given to Valley residents.

Families must also have the ability to pay a $750 monthly mortgage and be willing to partner with Habitat by putting in 500 hours of "sweat equity," which involves helping to build your own home and a neighbor's.

Though Habitat homes sometimes go to single people, priority is given to families with children, Walterson said. She said the cycle of poverty can be broken when children have a house to grow up in and also if they end up going to college. Walterson said that when children have a home to live in they statistically have higher grades, are less likely to join gangs and are healthier overall.

"It gives them a foundation that changes their lives; it gives them a stable place to go home to."

The styles of the homes built through Habitat must be approved by the design covenants of the Snoqualmie Ridge Residential Owners Association. All building is done by volunteers with donated materials and money. The average price of a Habitat home is between $85,000 and $95,000. Habitat offers zero-down, zero-interest loans and the $750 monthly mortgage includes taxes and homeowners' dues. The Habitat Home Owners Associations oversees neighborhood maintenance and is responsible for creating all the rules and guidelines Habitat homeowners follow.

"It's a nice way to give them control over their community," Walterson said.

When Habitat homeowners move on, they must sell their homes back to Habitat. The homeowner gets the principle payment of the house back, and an appreciation factor is applied if the occupants lived in their home for five years or more. This keeps the house in the affordable housing stock for 100 years, Walterson said.

Staff writer Melissa Kruse can be contacted at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at melissa.kruse@valleyrecord.com.

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