Morris Habitat for Humanity constructing 17 properties

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Bridgewater Courier News

After expanding into Middlesex County late last year, Morris Habitat for Humanity plans to bring 17 affordable homes to the area.

The nonprofit, which relies heavily on volunteers and donations to keep its programs running, plans to build 13 homes in Old Bridge and four in Perth Amboy.

“We hope for more in the future,” said CEO Blair Schleicher Wilson.

Morris Habitat for Humanity, which acquired the affiliated Greater Plainfield and Middlesex County service area in November, will officially launch in Middlesex County on Thursday.

The organization is based on a virtual breakfast moderated by Toni Yates, a reporter for WABC-TV, at 8:00 am. Attendees will meet with Wilson, who will discuss the organization and plans for Middlesex County. Participants will hear from dignitaries, corporate donors, and the organization’s volunteer team, and learn more about Habitat families and hear their stories.

“A lot of people in corporations, churches, and religious groups don’t know we exist,” Wilson said. “Our affiliate in Middlesex County was very small, essentially building one house a year. Morris Habitat has the capacity to build more houses and larger projects each year to help more families.

“We help municipalities with their commitment to affordable housing. We also hope to attract more corporate partners and connect them to the community.

Thursday’s event will feature a Highland Park family of four children who lived in a rented apartment in a flood zone, Wilson said.

“The father has health problems and the mother works and goes to school to get ahead,” said Wilson. “But they lived in a floodplain, and every time it rained they got fit. They even learned to keep the important documents in a plastic bag. They have been homeless all those times but couldn’t afford any other place a habitat homeowner gave them the stability and affordability to put down roots. “

Wilson said the rental housing stock in New Jersey is older and affordable housing isn’t necessarily in the best neighborhoods.

“We are trying to build in areas where children can go to school safely or where there are good bus connections,” she said. “We always use green materials when we can.”

Morris Habitat, a subsidiary of Habitat for Humanity International based in Americus, Georgia, builds and rehabilitates homes in partnership with families in need through volunteer work and donations of money and materials.

Morris Habitat is headquartered in Randolph with a second office at 2 Randolph Ave. in Plainfield.

With the addition of Middlesex County and Plainfield, the Morris Habitat catchment area includes 68 parishes in Morris, Middlesex and parts of Union and Somerset counties website.

With its expansion in Middlesex County and Plainfield last November, Morris Habitat for Humanity brings 17 affordable homes to Middlesex County. (Photo: Courtesy of Morris Habitat for Humanity)

Subsidiary Greater Plainfield & Middlesex County has built 47 local homes since 1989 and has served more than 106 families through its home ownership, repair and international housing programs since 1989, the website says.

Habitat homes are affordable because there is no profit in the selling price and no interest is paid on the mortgage. The family’s monthly mortgage payments go into a revolving fund that is used to build more homes. Potential homeowners go through an extensive screening process and are selected based on their need for affordable housing, their ability to repay a Habitat mortgage, and their willingness to partner with Habitat.

More: Habitat for Humanity completes work on a new home in Plainfield

More: Army veteran from New Jersey gifted new home, built with bricks from his childhood

In addition to monthly mortgage payments, each homeowning family invests hundreds of hours of their own work, known as sweat equity, in building their home and the homes of others.

“We have never had a foreclosure in our 36-year history,” said Wilson. “Many of our homeowners continue to pay. They volunteer and some are also donors.”

In Middlesex County

In Old Bridge, Morris Habitat plans to build a single family home at 308 Norwood Ave. in the Laurence Harbor section of the parish and 12 houses in two sixplexes across the street on vacant lot on Laurence Parkway 200.

“The community reached out to us and invited Morris Habitat to help them meet their commitment to affordable housing,” said Wilson. “You are donating the land. We have already received approval from the community to build the single-family home and are planning to start this fall.”

In addition, she said, the organization is seeking city approval to build a four-unit housing project at 361 Inslee St. and 362 Garretson Avenue in Perth Amboy later this year.

“We have just completed two single-family homes in Perth Amboy – one on Cortlandt Street and another on Lawrie Street,” she said. “We have a veteran who lives in one of these houses. We’re always looking for veterans as they pursue the American dream of home ownership.”

Morris Habitat is also working on a few single-family homes in Plainfield, Wilson said.

“Here in Morris County we will be launching July 25 and we have 12 more houses under construction in Summit,” she said.

More than just building houses

But helping people secure homes is not the organization’s only mission.

The “Aging in Place” component of the Home Repair program improves accessibility and energy efficiency for low-income households with a member aged 62 and over.

“We are now working with the South Brunswick Senior Center,” said Wilson.

With its expansion in Middlesex County and Plainfield last November, Morris Habitat for Humanity brings 17 affordable homes to Middlesex County. (Photo: Courtesy of Morris Habitat for Humanity)

The Home Repair Program also supports low-income families by performing all components of interior and exterior construction on owner-occupied properties. The Home Repair Program, through the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, works in communities to revitalize neighborhoods and help residents with street design, neighborhood cleaning, and minor home repairs.

The organization relies heavily on its volunteers.

“We always need volunteers and we still follow safety and health protocols,” she said. “All you need is a pulse and a smile and we’ll teach you everything you need to know.”

Volunteers come as individuals or with groups from schools, churches, unions or companies in the community. The construction will be a joint effort of the volunteers and the future homeowners.

Financial support for Morris Habitat comes from individuals, corporations, foundations, churches, and its retail company, ReStore. Funds are also raised at special events that take place throughout the year. The organization also receives funding from sources such as affordable housing trust funds from municipalities and the federal government, as well as grants.

But as costs increased, the organization had to increase its fundraising.

“One unit costs $ 300,000 to build,” said Wilson. “With the prices of wood rising and the prices of equipment rising, we cannot raise the prices for our houses. We have had to increase our traditional fundraising and are also relying on our ReStore.”

ReStore sells new and used home furnishings, housewares, appliances, home improvement items, and other items at 274 S. Salem St. in Randolph.

“If you’ve cleaned up during the pandemic, give us a call and we’ll pick up your carefully used items for free,” said Wilson. “We’ll sell them to the public in turn. The money will then be reinvested in future homes and our repair program. Come by and buy from our ReStore and donate to our ReStore.”

To contact the business call 973-891-1934 or visit Morris Habitat website.

“We will be opening a second retail store in Middlesex County in late 2022 or early 2023,” said Wilson. “We don’t have a specific location yet.”

To register for Thursday’s event and for more information on Morris Habitat for Humanity, visit www.morrishabitat.org.

Email: sloyer@gannettnj.com

Susan Loyer covers Middlesex County and more for MyCentralJersey.com. To get full access to their work, subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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