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Habitat for Humanity offers Peninsula homes

Recipient families have to help build houses

Five first-time homebuyers will receive a residence in East Palo Alto, Redwood City or Daly City, at-cost with zero-interest mortgages, thanks to Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.

To be eligible for such a home, applicants must live in San Mateo County and earn an annual gross income of 40 to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI). Families also have to demonstrate good credit history, be employed full-time, have a steady income and contribute 500 hours of sweat equity to help build their house, according to Communications Director Jennifer Doettling.

While the recession has taken a toll on home-building nationwide, the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has essentially escaped its impact.

"We have not been hit too hard," Emily Andrews, the group's homeowner selection coordinator, said. "Since our ability to build homes comes from donors, we have been able to maintain a steady income. Our mortgages are sold at zero interest so our homeowners haven't been hit either."

The cost of materials used in the construction of homes has declined in the past 18 months, Doettling said. The prices of key commodities such as concrete and steel have been slashed.

Volunteers, who provide Habitat with 90 percent of the labor required to build homes, have multiplied "due to the unfortunate unemployment situation of some volunteers," Doettling said.

"Many volunteers have also stated that they are heeding President (Barack) Obama's call to service," she said.

Two of the three-bedroom homes for sale in Daly City are estimated to cost between $250,000 and $300,000 each while homes in this area typically range from $400,000 to $700,000. The two homes will require 2,000 volunteers to build them by the completion date in early 2010.

The two houses for sale in East Palo Alto have previously been occupied by Habitat homeowners. For the recently built Redwood City home, special preference will be awarded to families with a wheelchair user.

Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco has enabled more than 150 families to buy homes since 1989.

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