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Habitat looking for family for new Norwood home

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NORWOOD — They have the land, the volunteers and the money. What’s needed now is a partner family interested in owning a new house built by volunteers from Raquette Valley Habitat for Humanity.

The agency purchased a parcel on Cottage Street and would like to start building by mid-June, but so far only two applicants have applied for the home. “We’d like to get four or five applicants,” said Vice President JoAnne M. Fassinger, Canton. “The more applicants the better. We know there is a need.”

After a house on the parcel burned, the village took ownership of the property and later sold it to Habitat.

“It’s in a nice, quiet neighborhood,” Ms. Fassinger said. “We won’t break ground until we have a family.”

The homes are available to St. Lawrence County families or individuals who meet income guidelines and can show they have enough income to make the monthly mortgage payment. Volunteer labor and donated building materials help keep down the cost and partner families are provided with no-interest mortgages.

Families also are required to provide at least 500 hours of “sweat equity,” either building their own house or helping with another Habitat project.

“It’s not a charity,” said Cynthia J. Atkins, chairwoman of the chapter’s family support and selection committee. “It’s a partnership that gets people involved in building their own house. These homes have made a difference in people’s lives; they’ve made a difference in kids’ lives.”

Families who are unable to meet the income and credit history requirements of banks often qualify for a Habitat house.

“We try to give it to people with the most need,” Ms. Atkins said, noting that any St. Lawrence County resident is eligible for the Norwood site. A four-person family can earn up to $46,150 a year.

Most of the Habitat homes are ranch-style, about 1,100 square feet, with three bedrooms and one bathroom. The price range is about $70,000. Volunteers from the local chapter are joined by college students from St. Lawrence University’s and SUNY Canton’s Habitat chapters.

Ms. Atkins and Ms. Fassinger said the students are eager to start a building project.

“They’re not fundraisers. They want to be building something,” Ms. Fassinger said.

This year for the first time, the chapter is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program. The federal agency is reviewing financial information provided by applicants and will hold the mortgage to the home.

“The USDA takes us out of the mortgage business,” Ms. Atkins said. “They also help people set up a financial plan and financial goals. It’s easy to partner with them because they have the same criteria.”

Since the Raquette Valley chapter was started in 1989, volunteers have rehabilitated 25 homes and constructed 14 new ones in St. Lawrence County communities including Norfolk, Parishville, Canton, Massena, Norwood, and Rensselaer Falls.

For more information about how to apply or volunteer, call the organization’s cellphone at 244-1335. The group is updating its website and hopes it will be online by the end of April.

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