By Al Higgins

When we hear the words Habitat for Humanity the first image that pops into the heads of many folks is that for President Jimmy Carter swinging a hammer. While it is true that President Carter’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity has shown a bright light on the non-profits activities, there are hundreds, if not thousands of volunteers who lend their time and expertise to the organization. 

Molly Hilligoss is the Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity in Salisbury. She was born and educated on the Shore and earned her undergraduate degree from Penn State and her MBA at the University of Maryland. “We are licensed builders by the state of Maryland,” she said. “Using money, materials and time donated by individuals, businesses, churches and community organizations, Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County works with family partners to build simple, decent houses, which are then sold to the homeowner at no profit, utilizing a no-interest mortgage. Monthly mortgage payments from existing homes, along with continued contributions create a fund that enables us to run the organization and continue to build more homes. The average monthly mortgage payment is about $650; considerably lower than the average $1,000 a month rent.

Habitat for Humanity is in dire need of volunteers and funding. The pandemic has forced them to curtail the hours of their staff and volunteer hours have dramatically reduce. But what is even more disturbing is poverty in Wicomico County, and within the city limits of Salisbury in particular, poverty is rising at an incredible rate. Presently over 16 percent of Wicomico County residents live below the poverty level and a whopping 28 percent of the residents of Salisbury live below the poverty line. The median household income for Wicomico County is $53,508, while the median household income in the city of Salisbury is a mere $37,780. When you consider the median gross monthly rent for an apartment in Salisbury is $1,035 you quickly realize these folks are spending over a third of their total income just on rent. That leaves very little opportunity to save enough money to eventually purchase a home. That is where Habitat for Humanity comes in.

“There are basic parameters for eligibility to obtain a new or refurbished home,” said Molly. “Questions asked include: Do you live in substandard housing, do you live in subsidized housing, are you spending more than 35 percent of your monthly income on housing? Have you held the same job or source of income for nine months, have you paid your rent on time for the last 12 months, can you make monthly home payments, can you save about $2,400 over the next two years as you wait for your home to be built, do you have a workable credit history? If so inclined, and able, the applicant can contribute 300 sweat-equity hours in lieu of a down-payment. Attendance at classes and workshops is required and the willingness to represent Habitat for Humanity publicly by speaking at meetings and in the media.”

Habitat for Humanity strives to build one house per year and they currently have 30 files under review, but not all of them are for new homes though. Habitat also does major repairs on homes, including roofing. In addition to building and repairing homes, Habitat also administers the Restore Program, which offers low cost home supplies, furniture and even home appliances at very attractive prices. Restore is open to the public and last year registered sales of $400,000. Typically they will purchase truckloads of goods and sell them at a discounted price. Also, some of the goods are donated. 

Habitat for Humanity of Wicomico County welcomes any and all support they can garner.