Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity just completed its 96th home in the Treasure Valley.
Husband and wife Louai Nasri and Walaa Natfaji, along with their two children, are the recipients of the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home off of Gary Lane in Boise.
“I am so excited and happy. No more rent,” Louai said with the keys in his hand. “We’ve always dreamed of owning our own home and now that’s possible.”
Louai and Walaa were born in Damascus, Syria. Because of extremely violent and dangerous conditions due to an ongoing civil war, the couple came to Boise as refugees in 2016, and their two children were born shortly after. Louai and Walaa just passed their citizenship tests last week.
With the couple’s new status, and a beautiful new home for their family, Louai and Walaa’s future is bright. But the path to homeownership was anything but a free ride.
“My wife and I worked for 400 hundred hours on this house, every Saturday,” Louai said. “I would paint, frame, and build with the other volunteers. My wife would cook for the volunteers.”
One of the requirements for Habitat for Humanity is families must be willing to put in partnership hours, which includes helping build the house.
“Its’ actually very cool,” said Janessa Chastain, Executive Director of Boise Valley Habitat for Humanity. “One of the first dedications I did, the daughter who was about five years old said, ‘here’s where my Mom hammered a nail and here’s where Dad squeezed stuff into a crack.’ She was so proud of the house and her family. It gave her such a sense of pride.”
In order for a family to be selected for Habitat’s program, Chastain says having a housing need is the biggest criterion.
“If you are in low-income housing but it is clean and everything works and it’s the right size for your family, we’re not going to take you out of that good situation into one of our homes. We look for people who need a safer living situation than what they’re currently in.”
In addition to “sweat equity,” selected families are responsible for a $1,000 down payment for the home, and then a zero-interest mortgage that Habitat sets at a rate affordable for people making between 30% and 50% of the area median income. This is equivalent to roughly $40,000 per year or less. A second mortgage then makes up the difference between Habitat’s rate and the appraised cost, but the loan means the home can’t be resold to someone else at market rate for a profit.
“That second mortgage is forgiven at the end of the life of the loan and it makes it so someone can’t get into the habitat home for $180,000 and then turn around and sell it at full market value,” Chastain said.
Habitat has the first right of refusal on all of its homes so if the occupant wants to sell, Habitat can buy it back and has shared equity.
“This keeps them responsible for staying with affordable housing and keeping it affordable housing,” Chastain said.
Chastain adds that the location where Habitat builds a home is well thought out. The house where Louai and Walaa live is Habitat’s fourth off of Gary Lane.
“The location of the houses is something we pay attention to because I think it’s fair to say that the public transit in Boise isn’t as robust as it could be. So, we need to make sure our families can continue working at their jobs and continue accessing the things they need to.”
Habitat also has a repairs program for low-income families that own a home but the house needs work.
“One of the places affordable housing can get backed up is people are forced out of houses that are no longer safe for them,” Chastain said. “The roofs have fallen apart or the bathroom isn’t workable. If we can keep those people in their homes, we’re not then adding to the overcrowding in affordable, accessible housing.”