Waco Habitat for Humanity’s zero-interest mortgage helps family in need amid skyrocketing rates, long waitlists for affordable housing

Published: Aug. 25, 2022 at 7:45 AM CDT
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) - A Waco family in need is finally moving into a fresh, interest-free Habitat for Humanity home after overcoming several obstacles and delays.

Habitat for Humanity selected Jessica Dugan, a Waco resident and a part of Compassion Waco, as the recipient of the newest house on the Payne Avenue.

“I’m just really glad that we’ve gotten to this point,” she said.

Compassion Waco is a six-month to one-year transitional housing shelter for women and children. It helps women obtain a steady job and gain financial stability to be able to move into a more permanent apartment, affordable housing or home.

Dugan said Compassion allowed her to stay in a fully-furnished apartment.

“So, you have a chore, and they help you with budgeting,” she said. “They help you get back on your feet.”

Habitat for Humanity selected Dugan because of her level of need, ability to pay the pills and ability to help build with “sweat equity”--when homeowners help build the house and ask community members to do the same.

Dugan had the opportunity to help build her new home from the ground up.

“Whenever we were done with Frame Day, it felt surreal,” she said. “I actually helped bring it from the ground up. That’s really awesome to be able to say....I’m just really glad that we’ve gotten to this point.”

“This point” is finally “graduating” from the Compassion Waco and moving into the Habitat for Humanity home Thursday evening.

However, the move is following years of overcoming struggles and delays as she has been housed by Compassion Waco for over four years.

“I’m really grateful that they’ve let me live there for as long as they have,” Dugan said. “I’ve learned a lot living there. I feel more prepared moving forward in my own house now.”

As interest rates remain around 5%, buying a home with a 30-year mortgage would not be affordable for Dugan. Habitat for Humanity’s zero-interest mortgage allows her to afford a nice, new home for her and her children.

“I’ve never had to pay an interest rate, so just the fact that...it is or affordable is a godsend,” she said. “I don’t know that I would be able to do it if it wasn’t like that.”

John Alexander, the Waco Habitat for Humanities executive director, said the organization has been providing zero-interest loans for over 40 years. With the high rates at the moment and the lack of affordable housing available, Habitat for Humanity can save families in need a lot of money.

Also, the increased cost in building materials and land in Waco has affected affordable housing options for low-income Waco residents.

“Affordable housing is needed more now more than ever,” Alexander said. “Habitat, by selling the house at cost through a zero interest mortgage, is able to make that affordable housing available to those who need it the most.”

Even with rising prices, Waco Habitat for Humanity kept the original price the same. However, it did take a lot longer to build the house.

Alexander said it took about one year to complete Dugan’s home which is much longer than it usually takes the organization.

“It was COVID, and, then, it was supply issues, and then it was prices of things,” Dugan said. “It was just everything. Everything all piled together. And so that’s why it’s taken the time that it has.”

Luckily, she had the community support and help her through the tough journey.

“I feel like it’s the community helping build my new life with me,” she said. “It really helps you feel together.”

Habitat for Humanity’s dedication for the home is Thursday evening. Right after, Dugan will start moving her and her daughter’s belongings into her new home.

The home is also funded by the W. Lacy Clifton Fund which donates money to build Waco Habitat for Humanity Houses.