SMYRNA: Habitat for Humanity forecloses on low-income homeowners

7:33 PM, Jul 8, 2011   |    comments
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Ivy Farkas, on the front steps of her home in Smyrna.

SMYRNA, Ga. -- Ivy Farkas is on the brink of losing her home. She and her family moved in nearly eight years ago. A divorce, illness and unemployment followed. Now she says she's 21 payments behind, and the mortgage holder has put her on notice.

"There's no option for a payment plan on this letter," Farkas said, holding the letter notifying her of an August foreclosure.  "It's pay it all or vacate the home."

It's a too common story with an uncommon twist.

The note on the home belongs to Habitat for Humanity -- the nonprofit known for putting low income people on the path to home ownership.  Farkas says she helped build the three-bedroom, two-bath home herself.

"I was up on the roof putting up shingles. I was nailing in two by fours," she said  "I had blisters on my hands from nailing."

Farkas says she has tried to create payment plans to save the home. She says Habitat stopped trying to work with her.

Habitat for Humanity says its terms are much less restrictive than those of commercial mortgage companies. In 23 years, the president of the Northwest Metro Atlanta chapter says it's only foreclosed on six homes.

But times have changed.  In 2011, chapter president John Kerwood says it has sent out ten foreclosure notices.

"There's a story behind every one, as you can well imagine," Kerwood said.  He wouldn't discuss Ivy Farkas's mortgage. He says the non-profit's goal is to keep families like hers in their homes, often under generous terms-- but only up to a point.

"The necessity of doing what we do comes out of the fact that we don't want to be enablers," Kerwood said. "We don't want to see our housing turn into the next generation of section eight housing."

And that's the challenge now faced by Habitat for Humanity in an ugly real estate climate.

The challenge for Ivy Farkas is more acute. She wants to try to find a way to keep the home she helped build. She says she has accumulated cash -- some from donations -- to make a payment covering much of the money she owes Habitat for Humanity.  She also says she's hiring an attorney.










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