Last week, Erica Madison of Habitat for Humanity went before Norwood trustees during the town’s monthly meeting to discuss a possible exception to a longstanding rule of the nonprofit. Madison, executive director of the Montrose Habitat for Humanity chapter, told town officials that the Zitting family had been struggling to sell their home with no success, and stakeholders seemed to be in agreement that it might be time to change the rules.
In 2014, the Zittings purchased their Habitat home. They have spent time and effort over the last year trying to sell it. While all four local governments had the option to purchase the home — Norwood, Telluride Mountain Village and San Miguel County — all declined.
Typically, Habitat for Humanity houses are sold to individuals or families with a lower income. The rules for the organization restrict a buyer to earning 50 percent of what the area median income is. Those numbers are specific for single people or families with children based on number in the household.
There are other rules for purchasing a Habitat home, too. Buyers must be first-time homebuyers, or those who haven’t owned a home in more than three years.
Because of the difficulty for the Zittings in selling their Habitat home in Norwood, Madison said the organization supported raising the standard number from 50 percent to 80 percent of the area median income, but only for this instance.
Madison said Arleen Boyd of Pine Cone Realty, the agent with the listing, also agreed that selling this particular home in Norwood was difficult. Madison and Boyd said several people came close to qualifying for the purchase, but made slightly over the allowed income. Because of that, no sale could take place.
San Miguel County had previously heard about the home’s difficulty in selling, and commissioners had already agreed to raise the standard requirement to 80 percent of the area median income. They said they wanted to make an exception for the home in question, but were firm they did not want to change the rules altogether.
Norwood officials said they wanted to make sure that those still in the 50 percent of area median income were still eligible to purchase the house. Madison said yes, those who had lower incomes, below the 80 percent of annual median income range, would still qualify.
Boyd, who was present during the meeting, said she felt like Habitat for Humanity would still accomplish its mission, even with the exception. She said for the families who needed a break, the home was still available. She said the bend in the rules also supported the Zittings right now, because they need to move on from owning the home.
“It’s an opportune time,” she said. “And lenders are making it more difficult right now.”
Boyd said some buyers are struggling with car payments and cost of living in general, and that lenders are tightening rules for home loans.
She said raising the qualifying amount to 80 percent of the area median income still opens the home to a deserving family who will qualify, and who really needs that house.
All four entities — Telluride, Mountain Village, Norwood and the county — must be in agreement to make the one-time exception.
Norwood trustees agreed to proceed and raise the restriction amount.