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Habitat extends its outreach to 29 communities; MetroWest service area acquired.

Byline: Lee Hammel

WORCESTER - The Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity is extending its reach through a merger with the MetroWest affiliate.

Pamela Faustine of Princeton, president of the Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity, and Christopher Ross of Framingham, president of the MetroWest Habitat for Humanity, announced the merger yesterday.

Discussion and planning for Greater Worcester to take over the service area and charitable activities of the MetroWest chapter has been under way for a year.

Habitat for Humanity sells homes without making a profit and provides no-interest mortgages to households with low and very low incomes. Habitat for Humanity builds homes with volunteer labor and "sweat equity" from the prospective occupants, often on land donated from communities trying to increase the amount of affordable housing.

The merger, which became official at the end of December, adds the nine communities in the MetroWest area to the 17 within Greater Worcester. Greater Worcester also adopted Sturbridge, Southbridge and Charlton, which had not been part of any of the state's 20 Habitat for Humanity chapter areas, according to J. Douglas Havens, Greater Worcester executive director.

Greater Worcester now serves these 29 communities: Ashland, Auburn, Boylston, Charlton, Framingham, Grafton, Holden, Holliston, Hopkinton, Leicester, Marlboro, Millbury, Natick, Northboro, Northbridge, Oxford, Paxton, Rutland, Sherborn, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Southbridge, Sturbridge, Sudbury, Sutton, Wayland, West Boylston, Westboro and Worcester.

Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity has built 24 units of housing in Worcester, Westboro and Northboro since its founding in 1985.

The MetroWest Chapter built one unit in Framingham, Mr. Havens said.

Unlike the Greater Worcester affiliate, with a full-time and two-part time employees and a full-time Americorps VISTA member, the MetroWest chapter had no paid staff, he said. The MetroWest board has disbanded, but two of its members, Mr. Ross and Beverly Good, both residents of Framingham, have joined the Greater Worcester board.

Habitat for Humanity expects to dedicate a duplex at 2 Stowell Ave. in June. It also hopes to begin two single-family homes in Sturbridge in the fall, with town meeting having approved purchase of the properties to be conveyed to Habitat for Humanity, Mr. Havens said.

It also hopes to break ground in June for a home in Sudbury.

Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization, has 800 to 1,000 volunteers to build homes. About 80 percent donate their time once, while the remainder return day after day, Mr. Havens said.

Working two days a week, it takes about a year to build a home, he said.

The homeowners' income is between 25 percetn and 50 percent of the area's median income. They pay 30 percent of their family income, resulting in sales of between $60,000 and $120,000, Mr. Havens said.

The most recent duplex built by Greater Worcester Habitat for Humanity cost $225,000 in cash spent to build it, he said. Habitat for Humanity is funded through donations from foundations, corporations, churches and individuals.

The city will use its federal HOME funds from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to reimburse Habitat for Humanity for the cost of the land of the 2 Stowell Ave. duplex, Mr. Havens said.

Some communities provide land to Habitat for Humanity to help meet the need for affordable housing, he said. Under Chapter 40B, the state's affordable housing law, developers can escape some of the requirements of local zoning if less than 10 percent of the community's housing is not classified as affordable and if at least 20 percent of the proposed development is considered affordable housing.

Communities consider Habitat for Humanity to be a good partner because its projects are limited to one or two affordable units, unlike most private developers, Mr. Havens said. Under Chapter 40B, occupants can have income of up to 80 percent of median income.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jan 23, 2008
Words:627
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