‘Just big enough’ home in Florence for first-time buyer

  • Julie Boucher of Westfield works on cutting a piece of vinyl siding for a house in Amherst Nov. 12, 2016, as part of a “Women’s Build” connected with Pioneer Valley Habitat For Humanity. Gazette File Photo/Carol Lollis

  • Megan McDonough, the executive director for Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, said a new, “just big enough” home being built in Florence will be simple, energy-efficient and affordable. Design plans are being completed now by Dorrie Brooks of Jones Whitsett Architects. Construction is to begin this summer, McDonough said. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

@mjtidwell781
Published: 2/17/2018 4:31:13 PM

First-time homebuyers earning minimum wage are invited to apply for a new one-bedroom home in Florence, provided they’re willing to pay, in part, with “sweat equity.”

Applications are available online until April 17 for the house, which will be built through the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity.

Megan McDonough, the executive director for Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity, said the new, “just big enough” home will be simple, energy-efficient and affordable. Design plans are being completed now by Dorrie Brooks of Jones Whitsett Architects. Construction is to begin this summer, McDonough said.

“A lot of homes being built these days are larger and more expensive because landowners need to make a profit,” she said. “It takes community investment to do something that was common 50 years ago, like the idea of a starter home, but really just isn’t being done any more.”

The home is designed for first-time homebuyers who are working full-time for the Massachusetts minimum wage of $11 an hour, or who make up to 60 percent of the median area income, adjusted by family size.

McDonough said many people might be surprised to find that a first-time homebuyer is anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the past three years, according to federal law.

Other selection criteria include housing need, the ability to make mortgage payments of $550 to $990 a month, and a willingness to partner with Habitat to pay “sweat equity.”

McDonough said sweat equity is 200 hours put in by the homebuyer, with around 100 of those hours spent on construction of the house itself and other hours being spent on first-time homebuyer classes, educational opportunities and working with other Habitat for Humanity volunteers.

She said arrangements can certainly be made for those with disabilities or other concerns to put in their share of sweat equity.

The home will be available for $120,000 or less, and McDonough said it’s easy for homebuyers to put in their full sweat equity in a year if they commit to five or so hours per week working on their house or taking homeowner classes.

“We wanted to see the simplest, most affordable home option we could create,” she said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What is the lowest income we could work with to help someone afford their dream of home ownership?’”

Applications are due by April 17, and Habitat is hosting three information sessions prior to the deadline for people to learn more about the homes, selection criteria and how to submit a complete application.

The first information session will be on March 10 at Forbes Library in Northampton at 10:30 a.m. Applications and details about additional information sessions and selection criteria are available at pvhabitat.org.

Applications also can be picked up in person at Forbes Library, Northampton City Hall and the Pioneer Valley Habitat for Humanity offices at 140 Pine St., Florence.

Editor’s Note: This story was changed on Sunday, Feb. 18, to correct the number of homes available from more than one to one.




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