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Habitat affiliates forming statewide group

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Bert Green

Bert Green

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte expects to have served 100 additional families in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2010.

Serving those clients will include building 48 new homes, acquiring another 24 through foreclosure and then rehabilitating and reselling them, and providing critical repairs on another 28, says Bert Green, executive director.

Throughout the state, annual production for the past three years by all 84 Habitat affiliates, including three in Mecklenburg County, totaled 1,040 houses.

To better coordinate their work, including fundraising, training and advocacy, the state’s Habitat affiliates are forming a state support organization, joining statewide Habitat support groups in nearly 30 other states.

The core mission of Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina will be to “advocate and educate for the need for more affordable housing throughout the state, and to raise the resources to be able to do that,” says Green, a member of the new statewide group’s board of directors.

That will involve working with individual affiliates to coordinate funding applications to the same funders, and to make sure local affiliates know about applications to funders in counties they serve from affiliates in other counties.

That approach also aims to make the application process easier for donors, Green says, and “make it known that our affiliates across the state are in need of more resources to do what they’re doing.”

The new group also aims to facilitate regional and statewide training for affiliates and provide opportunities for them to get together and learn from one another.

Another task will be to coordinate communications and activities with Habitat partners, such as the N.C. Housing Finance Agency, that may “prefer to work with one face of Habitat rather than 84,” Green says.

Advocacy also will be a key role for the new group.

While it will not hold its first board meeting until Jan. 15, 2010, for example, the statewide group has been working with U.S. Rep. Heath Shuler on legislation to clarify language in a federal law that requires each state to set up a mortgage licensing system.

The law requires state banking commissioners to set up those systems to regulate organizations that “solicit and acquire and receive gain” from processing mortgages.

Habitat affiliates do not process their zero-interest mortgages for gain, Green says, but the language in the law is vague about whether state commissioners may exempt Habitat affiliates from the law.

Having to meet the licensing rules, he says, could be expensive, even for large affiliates, and could prompt smaller affiliates to shut down rather than incur the expense the rules would generate for them.

Of the state’s 84 Habitat affiliates, nearly 30 have no staff.

Another priority for the new statewide group will be to encourage funder to invest in more affordable housing in the state’s rural areas, Green says.

The group already has adopted articles of incorporation and draft bylaws, and created a board approved by over half the affiliates.

The group initially will have one employee and hopes initially to share space with the North Carolina Housing Coalition in Raleigh.

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