Habitat for Humanity held a ceremony on Wednesday, December 10, to publicly announce its plan for a four-unit housing project on San Pascual Street in Santa Barbara that will be home to three area families and one single woman by 2010. Laura Rosales and the Ortiz, Trujillo, and Escamilla families were selected to move into the homes from a database of eligible candidates who met certain guidelines for financial and citizenship status. Joyce McCullough, Habitat’s executive director, described the application process as long and laborious. “We try to be as objective as we can be,” she said. “We rank according to need : Applicants need to have a job, maybe even two, [must have] lived legally in Santa Barbara for at least a year, and need to be credit-worthy.”

The Trujillo family was fortunate enough to reach the top of the long list of qualified applicants. Daughter Cynthia is a Santa Barbara High School student who feels the move will be beneficial. “There are a lot of kids in our neighborhood now so it will be quieter and better for me to study once we move,” she said. “I’m excited.” She and her brother, City College student Muricio, will be moving into their new unit with mother, Rosa, and father, Muricio Sr. Altogether, the entire complex will include a total of 13 people, with six children and seven adults.

Although the house and property will be fully paid for by the end of 2009, the residents will not be given a free ride for ownership. Each person is required to put in 250 hours of manual labor during construction – what Habitat refers to as “sweat equity” – as well as a down payment and a monthly mortgage. “[Habitat] houses are sold on what the family can afford to pay,” explained David Spainhour, the former president of Santa Barbara Bank and Trust and now the head of Habitat’s campaign cabinet.

Payments are zero-interest and are recycled back into the Habitat fund to be used for future projects. A portion of Habitat’s efforts have also been funded through the Re-store, a second-hand construction supply center that brings in around $4,000 a month for the charity.

Donations are the main fundraising mechanism for Habitat for Humanity, which are overseen by Spainhour, who works on the acquisition of larger donations. His diligence in finding donors from the Santa Barbara area has raised 40 percent of the $3.5 million needed to fund the building. “We developed a list of prospects in the community, we arrange a meeting over lunch or coffee, and ask them if they can support us,” explained Spainhour. “People are responding well.”

This is only the second project Habitat has done in the Santa Barbara area and while the city is not expected to receive a high volume of future projects, more are nonetheless expected to happen. “We’re looking at sites for the next project now,” said McCullough. “We’re opportunistic, we’ll look at anything. We’d love to do home renovations and we’re always on the lookout.”


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