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The Philips family are the recipients of Habitat for Humanity of Mariposa County's fifth home

Mariposa Mother of Six Awarded Habitat for Humanity Home

MARIPOSA — Thanksgiving this year will be particularly memorable for Mariposa resident Sarah Philips and her family.

In mid October, Habitat for Humanity (HFH) of Mariposa County announced that Philips and her family would be the residents of Habitat’s fifth home.

“I’m absolutely ecstatic, we’re extremely blessed,” said Philips of her selection. “This just couldn’t be more of what we really need.”

According to Cathy Owens, the chairperson of the family support committee for HFH, there were a number of families that applied for selection after it was announced to the community. Families are required to go through what Owens described as a “fairly rigorous” application process. Brief family backgrounds, credit history, employment status and other qualification milestones must be met, and several interviews are held by the HFH family selection committee.

The Mariposa County organization’s fifth home will be built on Stroming Road, next to the fourth HFH home that was recently completed. The property was secured by HFH in early 2017 when it was purchased for a reported $30,000. Two local realtors, Tolley Gorham and Elizabeth Hillebrand, helped put the package together with no fee.

The property, which was bequeathed to the Diocese of Fresno-Catholic by the late Tilley Stroming and managed by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Mariposa had to be rezoned and split. Dividing the property allowed HFH to develop two buildable lots.

Several local professionals donated their assistance to accomplish that task, including surveyor Charlie Pratt and engineer Roger Stephens. Current HFH President Jim Evans secured the conditional use permit through Mariposa County, which waived all the associated fees.

“The application process wasn’t too difficult. The loan application through USDA was pretty easy, then we were required to provide personal information, like a family bio, and go through the interviews,” Philips explained. She is the mother of four biological children, and two step children.

“We’re so looking forward to being in a home that is warm, that doesn’t have really hard water, and especially to our first dinner together in the house,” Philips added. “It’s been a rough year and a half for us, and we’re so thankful for the amount of support we’ve received from the community, our friends, and family. God has really provided for us.”

By being selected, Philips will have to provide 350 hours of “sweat equity” labor to the home’s development. HFH allows that 150 of those hours can be provided by friends, family or volunteers.

“There are a lot of ways to volunteer, it’s not just swinging a hammer. With working full time and all the children, I could use all the help I can get,” Philips explained.

Volunteers can contribute in several different ways. Anyone interested in assisting can contact any member of the local HFH group, or sign-up on the website at www.mariposahabitat.org.

It’s a common misconception that Habitat for Humanity provides a mortgage-free home to the low income family it selects. That’s far from accurate.

According to Evans, the process is not all that different from a regular mortgage application. “By using the new model through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), we could possibly build one new home a year,” Evans said. “It’s a pretty typical mortgage process, but what sets it apart is the interest subsidy.”

Prior to the USDA process, HFH was only able to build a home about every three years.

The applicant has to qualify for the mortgage through the USDA, based on 30 percent of their income being dedicated to the mortgage payment, along with applicable property taxes. The difference is the interest subsidy. Depending on the income of the applicant qualifying, the interest can vary from zero to the current rate.

“Our process is different in that the interest is deferred. It’s anticipated that the loan will be repaid on a 30- or 40-year basis, and that the accrued interest will be paid when the home sells,” Evans explained. “Under this formula, lower income families who could rarely qualify for a traditional mortgage, can become homeowners. It’s the interest subsidy that makes all the difference.”

Another key factor is construction cost that is significantly reduced thanks to volunteer labor, and discounted or donated materials.

“We get a lot of support from local, licensed contractors on plumbing, grading, electrical and everything else,” Evans explained. “We get all the roofing materials donated from a company in Oregon, all we have to do is go get it.”

All of the volunteer labor, discounted and donated materials keeps the construction cost down, thereby making the applicant’s ability to qualify for the mortgage more manageable.

HFH received a grant from Pacific Gas and Electric that provided solar panels and power on its fourth house, also located on Stroming Road. “We’re hoping to receive another grant for our fifth home,” Evans added.

“Habitat for Humanity is really the only organization nationwide that deals with low income home ownership,” Evans said, “and it’s all the community support we receive that makes it work here.”

The traditional Thanksgiving holiday will be celebrated nationwide this year on the 28th, the fourth Thursday of the month. Because November 1st fell on a Friday this year, the holiday was pushed to almost the end of the month. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill in 1941 declaring that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November.

This will certainly be one Thanksgiving holiday that will never be forgotten by the Philips family.

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