Hooked on Habitat

By Wise, Christy | Mortgage Banking, May 1994 | Go to article overview

Hooked on Habitat


Wise, Christy, Mortgage Banking


Habitat for Humanity International is making a difference in people's lives house by house. People getting involved with the program say the work is habit-forming.

IT STARTED INNOCENTLY ENOUGH. MIKE FOSTER'S WIFE, CAROL, came home one day talking about a dynamic nonprofit group that helps low-income families finance and build their own homes.

Little did the chairman and CEO of Foster Ousley Conley know that listening to his wife that evening would eventually involve his entire company, clients and family in Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian nonprofit organization dedicated to providing decent, safe and affordable housing for low-income families.

Foster's experience is typical of the way companies and individuals get involved with the group--through churches, friends, colleagues, clients. Foster Ousley Conley's involvement has attracted several other businesses to the Mt. Diablo Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Contra Costa County, California, and that, too, is common. Once one company in a town participates in Habitat's homebuilding projects, others often follow.

"We like things where we can really touch somebody directly rather than just giving money," Foster said. "If you build a house, you're working with the people who are going to live there, which is a terrific feeling."

Plus, by working in the housing industry, the company's community service work dovetails nicely with the primary business of the mortgage quality management services firm. But, Foster Ousley Conley has not abandoned its other charities. As with many mortgage banking and related companies, Foster Ousley Conley's participation in Habitat has expanded the firm's community service work, not pulled from other recipients.

Across the country, mortgage companies and mortgage banking associations are embracing Habitat for Humanity International as the perfect match between their community service contributions and their core business.

In North Carolina, the 100-member Charlotte Mortgage Bankers Association raised $37,500 through various raffles and corporate contributions and donated labor over several weekends for the construction of a house in Charlotte three years ago.

In Minneapolis, GMAC-RFC has created Homes First, a two-year-old program providing long-term, low-interest loans to Habitat affiliates in six cities for a total investment of $2.7 million.

In the northern California wine country, Headlands Mortgage Company of Larkspur, California, raised $25,000 last year at a dinner and wine auction that helped kick off the Western Regional Secondary Marketing Conference and plans to triple that amount this year at its second annual auction this July.

True to the Hollywood influence of its region, the 120-member Southern California Mortgage Bankers Association (SCMBA) sponsored a theater night fund-raiser in November 1993, raising $21,600 toward the purchase of a Habitat home. The group is planning a similar event this coming November.

Among the primary supporters of the movie premier fund-raiser were ARCS Mortgage, Inc., of Calabasas, Countrywide Funding Corporation of Pasadena, Fallbrook Mortgage Corporation and GN Mortgage, both of West Hills, Kaufman and Broad Mortgage Company and Weyerhaeuser Mortgage Company of Woodland Hills and ONB Mortgage of Orange.

Habitat for Humanity International was founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller, a millionaire businessman, and his wife, Linda, of Americus, Georgia. They envisioned an equal partnership between affluent and low-income people working to renovate or build houses and communities.

The group celebrated the construction of its 20,000th home worldwide in April 1993 and expects to build another 10,000 houses by next month. In one year, the organization will have completed more houses than were constructed during its first 15 years of operation. The organization was ranked as the 22nd largest home builder in the United States in 1992.

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