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Sweat Equity and Homeownership

A recent article in the Washington Post defines sweat equity and how it helps low-income families turn time and volunteer labor into a down payment for their first home.

“A major misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that it’s a low-income giveaway home program,” says the Rev. John Smoot, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia in Alexandria. “We’re actually a general contractor and a lending institution. We’re regulated by the federal government like any other lender.”

Sweat equity programs such as ours allow homeowners to partner with their local Habitat affiliate to work volunteer hours (our requirement is 500 hours), which saves on labor costs, and can reduce the cost of the down payment.

“Many of our applicants are working two or three jobs, so we give them lots of ways they can do their hours." Smoot says. "Some of them swing hammers, do framing, sheathing, insulation, painting and trim work but they can also help us with customer service, work in the office or work in the ReStore."

“An unexpected benefit to sweat equity is the training. I had never done anything like it, but we helped with the construction, painting and putting in flooring and I loved it," says Joyce Ayaribire, Alexandria, VA.

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