Habitat for Humanity Celebrates First Paid-Off Home

A study released this week by Harvard shows that foreclosures around the country are still rising. But in Houston, at least one homeowner can put those fears behind her. Habitat for Humanity celebrates its first paid off home. From the KUHF NewsLab, Melissa Galvez reports.

After 73 years, and after raising 8 children, 27 grandchildren, 56 great grand children, and 3 great great grandchildren-Dorothy Howard finally owns her own home. 

"I have a proclamation from the city of Houston.  This is Dorothy Howard Day. Congratulations."

In 1988, Howard was the first person in Houston to buy a home with Habitat for Humanity.  This week, she became the first person to completely pay off her mortgage.  Friends and family celebrated at her small white house in the Fifth Ward, and Howard reminisced about buying her first home, 21 years ago

"I had passed this house one Sunday. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this was going to be my home. But when Louis came and told me, I couldn't help but cry."

image of Dorothy Howard

Habitat for Humanity helps families living in substandard housing, by providing interest free loans on new homes.  In return, residents spend 300 hours building those homes, along with volunteers.  Executive Director Algenita Scott Davis says Habitat homes have very few foreclosures, because the organization helps residents manage their money:

"Because we want to work with our homeowners to make sure than don't fall in the traps, doing crazy things like rental to buy furniture, things like that, where they're wasting tons and tons of money…working with them, looking at their budgets, you know, don't go out and buy a car, you need to see how this is going to affect your day to day finances."

Sitting in her immaculate blue and yellow kitchen, Howard says that that mindset kept her on track for 21 years.

"With my children, I tried to raise my grandchildren the same way.  You pay your bills first. After you pay your bills, you're not worried about them turning off lights, gas. In 20 years, nothing has ever been turned off here."

Today, there's cake and balloons.  Howard looks forward to family gatherings with hot dogs and hamburgers for many years to come.  And she hopes one day, she'll hear these words for her children, grand children, and great-grandchildren:

"What I have here, Mrs. Howard, is your deed of trust, marked paid."

From the KUHF NewsLab, I'm Melissa Galvez