The local affiliate of the global affordable housing group began building single-family houses in 1989. Habitat sells the houses to qualified families: those with sufficient income to pay their bills, mortgage, taxes, insurance, and other expenses but not more than 30 to 60 percent of the area median income (which HUD adjusts annually and which varies by size of family). In 2013, a family of four’s income could range between $24,948 and $49,896 to qualify.

Prospective homeowners undergo a credit check, take a nine-week financial management course, and help work on their, or another, Habitat house. The houses are affordable because Habitat is the banker and charges no interest, and a nonprofit builder that uses volunteer labor (more than 30,000 hours locally in 2013).

By the time the recession hit in 2008, HHHV was building four to seven houses a year, including about twenty on Ann Arbor’s far west side (on Bens Dr. and Russell St. off South Maple and in the Westover/Ferry area near Jackson and Wagner). It decided to shift its focus not because Habitat homeowners were in trouble–the organization prides itself on helping families manage financial problems so that fewer than 3 percent fail–but because the looming crisis threatened the stability of entire low-to-moderate-income neighborhoods.

So HHHV stopped building new homes and instead began buying and renovating abandoned foreclosed homes. They started in Ypsilanti Township’s Gault Village subdivision, and development director Maggie Porter Kratz says they’ll soon begin work in the West Willow neighborhood as well. The impact on house values is already clear, she adds: Habitat bought its first house in Gault Village in 2009 for $31,000; houses there of similar design and condition sold for $70,000 in 2013 and for $100,000 in 2014. Habitat seems to have achieved its goal of neighborhood stabilization.

Habitat homes also bring revenue to local governments. In 2013 HHHV’s 144 home owners (with 327 children) paid property taxes of $105,000 to Ypsilanti Township, $101,520 to Ypsilanti, $66,440 to Ann Arbor, and $14,152 to Superior Township. Its 2013 budget came to just over $5 million, with income almost evenly divided between program revenue–home owners’ mortgage payments and sales at its Aprill Dr. ReStore resale shop–and contributions and grants.

Looking ahead, Habitat’s leaders aim to more than double the number of families the group serves in the next five years. The goal is to enable 105 to buy renovated houses, while providing another 197 with critical repair and weatherization.

Most, if not all, of these homes will be in Ypsilanti and Ypsilanti Township, but money and workers from the whole county, organized by the Ann Arbor office, will make it happen. To pay for the expansion, HHHV aims to raise $3.5 million in new funds by 2017.