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Habitat for Humanity looking for participants

STEUBENVILLE — City officials have high hopes for North Fifth Street properties they donated to a Habitat for Humanity project, but first they have to find applicants who tick all the boxes for program eligibility.

Groundbreaking is at least a year away, Habitat officials say.

“We are looking for families in the Steubenville area,” said Courtney Brown, director of Habitat for Humanity East Central Ohio’s Family and Faith Partnership. “We’d love to answer any questions, talk with anyone who’s interested.”

The city conveyed properties at 821-23 N. Fifth St. and 827-29 N. Fifth St. to the Jefferson County Port Authority in 2019, and the JCPA, in turn, signed them over to Habitat for Humanity. At the time, city officials were hopeful the project would “spark other housing construction in the downtown area” and said it would give a family a chance to own a home of their own.

Brown said an applicant had been selected for one of the lots and was on the road to ownership when she realized she wasn’t ready, “and that’s OK. Our goal isn’t to just throw people into houses, we’re looking for generational change. Maybe one day down the road she’ll be ready for home ownership but … we’re not forcing it. It just didn’t feel like a good time for her to take it on.”

To qualify, prospective buyers must currently live in substandard housing — that means paying too high rent, overcrowded or have basic housing needs not being met; have a steady income and be willing to partner with Habitat for Humanity, providing “sweat equity” — working on their own and other Habitat properties; participating in homeowner maintenance education; and completing financial literacy courses, among other things.

“I think our families typically enjoy the partnerships they participate in. It allows them to build communities, learn skills, be more invested in home,” she said. “(These are) homes they can afford and they own. If they leave the program, I think it’s because they realize they’re not ready … At the end of the whole thing, our goal is to provide an opportunity for a safe, decent and affordable home ownership. The key word is home. We want families empowered to make that decision. We’re a faith-based organization, we pray with the family for their decision.”

Aaron Brown, director of Neighborhood Investment for Habitat for Humanity, said they “want to do right by the city.”

“They entrusted us with this lot, knowing we’d be able provide a new house on (it),” he said. “We want to be able to invest and revitalize the community.”

He said they’re booked out with families that already applied in the past year, “so if someone applied right now, we’d be able to get them in the program, get them qualified and start (working) on their requirements, but we’d be looking to start that build in the spring of 2023.”

Courtney Brown said East Central Ohio has been a Habitat affiliate for 34 years, bringing Jefferson County into the mix in 2015.

“Our affiliate will be digging our 600th house this year,” she said. “(So) something’s working.”

For information or to file an application, go to habitateco.org and look for the “own a home” tab.

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