The Tuscaloosa City Council approved a new housing development in the city's West End Tuesday that will see Habitat for Humanity build 26 affordable homes in the near future.

The new community will consist of 26 small but inexpensive homes spread over three rows on new expansions to two existing streets near west Tuscaloosa's Kaulton Park.

(City of Tuscaloosa)
(City of Tuscaloosa)
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Ellen Potts, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa, said each house built in the new development will be around 1,300 square feet and contain three bedrooms.

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A popular misconception is that Habitat gives homes away for free, which is not true -- Potts said the organization sells the homes for their appraised value to would-be homeowners who qualify for a 30-year zero-interest loan. That represents a discounted price and a huge savings on interest payments, but homeowners have to work hard to qualify to own a Habitat House, and they certainly don't get them for free.

Potts said the final price of the planned homes has not been set, but that Habitat sells homes for their exact appraised value, and that similar models in the city at other Habitat developments are selling for around $138,000 -- much cheaper than most other homes on the market in the Tuscaloosa area.

She said a monthly mortgage payment on a Habitat House including all escrow payments is usually between $500 and $550.

"Rent for even a two-bedroom apartment is way more than double that in the city of Tuscaloosa," Potts said. "Our homeowners purchase their home through a zero-interest, 30-year mortgage and over the life of the mortgage, they are saving in interest payments more or less the value of the home."

To qualify for home ownership, applicants must prove they can afford the mortgage, pass a criminal background check, work on the construction of their new home and more.

Potts said the background check will immediately kick out anyone who is a sex offender or convicted of a violent crime, but non-violent offenses including drug crimes are not immediately disqualifying and applicants with such charges on their records will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Potts said depending on how quickly Habitat can get started on the project and how quickly they can lay pipe and other infrastructure to serve the community, they could optimistically be finished with the project in three years.

Habitat has built and sold more than 90 homes in the area since an EF-4 tornado devastated Tuscaloosa in April 2011, including the entire, completed community on Juanita Drive in Alberta City.

The Council unanimously approved the project Tuesday night.

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