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HABITAT BUILDS UP U.S. FAMILIES.

Byline: JEAN RUSSELL VOGEL

Half of the homes in which U.S. children are growing up have major defects threatening health or safety, said Habitat for Humanity speaker Linda Neilson, addressing 25 Simi Valley Community Council members Thursday at International House of Pancakes.

Neilson, who chairs the volunteer speakers bureau for the Ventura County affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, explained how the 20-year-old nonprofit organization seeks to ``eliminate substandard housing and homelessness'' through work in creative partnerships.

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976, following home building in the United States and Africa, which demonstrated the partnership concept originated by Millard and Linda Fuller.

A family qualifying for a Habitat home puts in 500 hours of work, assisted by volunteers, the backbone of the organization. Behind the familiar media scenes of on-site nail pounders, a host of volunteers serve as architects, truck drivers, coordinators of materials, building trades specialists, and communications and office support staff.

To qualify for a Habitat home, family income can be no more than 50 percent of the median income for the county of residence. Also, the family must have exhausted all other options for adequate housing. Habitat does not buy land, Neilson explained, but lots are obtained through cities, counties or private donations.

With the added components of volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of materials, the Habitat-community-prospective owner partnership can build a 1,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home in Ventura County for $60,000.

The new homeowner makes a down payment to Habitat, followed by no-interest, affordable mortgage payments. These funds are earmarked for initiating the building of additional homes in Fillmore, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo and Piru, as well as rehabilitating homes in numerous jurisdictions. The 1997 goal is the completion of nine additional homes.

Executive Director Ken Pyburn, Ventura County Habitat's only paid staff member, has been allocated two Vista volunteers, who join other headquarters volunteers at the Oxnard office. To join the Habitat operation, call 485-6065. Training is offered on second Saturdays monthly.

Neilson, an Oak Park resident, explained that she was moved to contact Habitat here after a visit to Nairobi, where she was confronted with housing at its absolute minimum.

She was already a committed volunteer and envisioned adding home construction to her other activities. However, Neilson's experience teaching communications and theater made her especially valuable in the Habitat speakers bureau. She agreed to head the bureau about three years ago. She used her 30-minute speech to pinpoint the scope of Habitat's worldwide home-building - somewhere on the globe a new home is finished every 33 minutes.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 12, 1997
Words:425
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