"Sweat Equity in Affordable Housing" A "Life and Money" interview - Interview of Jim Killoran, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity, Westchester County by Frank Sisco, CPA, PFs on 2/6/08.
Under the energetic leadership of Jim Killoran of Habitat for Humanity in Westchester County, many families have been able to attain the American dream of having their own home. They demonstrate that their income is weak enough to qualify yet their commitment strong enough to put in their own labor to build the home, with the help of relatives, friends and the community. Habitat stirs and coordinates resources within the community and many volunteers to work alongside the family, truly sweat equity by everyone. Once the house is built, often at a cost lower than traditional construction assisted by donations, the new homeowner family repays to Habitat a mortgage loan over 20 or 30 years without interest, a huge savings for them. This not only gives the family a chance at economic success, but also helps to enhance the fabric of a community by getting members of churches, schools, civic organizations, corporations, and private citizens to reach out and help, with money, resources and get down and dirty with shovels, hammers and saws. (See ATM1) Recently, I videotaped Jim Killoran addressing a group of 50 students, led by headmaster Doug Fleming, from Thornton Donovan School in a spacious dining hall at the popular Coromandel Cuisine of India in downtown New Rochelle. Jim talked about the mission of Habitat for Humanity for about 25 minutes. The students seemed profoundly affected by Jim's call for action, to do something to make the world better. To do something and lift people up. Several students volunteered to become leaders in the newly-formed Habitat club at Thornton Donovan. Two students proudly told of their personal volunteer experiences building homes in other countries for Habitat. (See ATM 2).
At Habitat's new offices on Main Street in New Rochelle, I talked with Jim in his office, the walls covered with scores of awards and certificates. A metal-covered bible, owned by Governor Malcolm Wilson, sat in the middle of the desk, probably cited from often during a day in the life of this very spiritual can-do man.
Frank - How does somebody apply for a home, and how does the process work?
Jim - Initially, the prospective homeowner sends a letter of interest to our office such as "We are a family of four, this is my income level, we are living in substandard housing... They are considered based upon need and the ability to do the sweat equity. We believe in the biblical principle that everyone should have a home and we should not charge usury to our brothers and sisters as in the Book of Exodus. The family's down payment is their pledge of sweat equity so to speak. . . . I want our families to have wealth. The home creates a "bank" for them.
Frank - What are some of the things on your wish list and the challenges ahead:
Jim - One is land. Another is getting a multi-million dollar pocket of funds. We want to bring it to the next stage where we are constantly building so that everyone can have a simple decent home, including condos and coops and green buildings. We have to get back to the fundamental strength of a community being the people who live here and have been a part of the history. Also, we should be able to use set-asides to help the middle-income families.
Frank - How do you allocate your time to handle all that you do?
Jim - What inspires me is that I have a lot of good people around me and that I'm planting seeds among young people, and God puts people in my path to help us all work together.
References Across the Media: (ATM 1) - The website for Habitat for Humanity in Westchester is at: http://www.habitatwc.org/ (ATM 2)- The talk by Jim and the interview is at the VideoVoom.com website in the section for nonprofit events at: http://www.videovoom.com/List_Events_NonProfitEvents.htm
About the author: Frank Sisco is a CPA, Personal Financial Specialist and video journalist who writes on topics related to life and money. You can contact Frank by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 914.589.1013 in order to express your opinion about this article or to obtain copies of prior articles. Frank, and his wife and daughter, reside in New Rochelle, NY .