Cover Story: Habitat for Humanity buying foreclosed homes

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - With the number of home foreclosures seeming to rise every day, a Charlotte non-profit Habitat for Humanity is coming to the rescue of homeowners.  It's becoming one of the first Habitat affiliates in the U.S. to buy vacant, foreclosed houses and fixing them up.  PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson explains in our Cover Story.

This is what we think of when you think of Habitat for Humanity.  Building new homes.

But right now this is Habitat's immediate future.

In a neighborhood of foreclosed homes off West Boulevard in West Charlotte French and German foreign exchange students on Friday were helping paint and fix up a formerly boarded up vacant home for Habitat Charlotte.

Bert Green is the non-profit's executive director.

"We expect to be in the rehab business forever," he says.

Rehabing foreclosed homes and selling them to families instead of building a new one from scratch.

"This is a new era in our quiver here."

And marks a major shift in development for the local Habitat affiliate, but one that makes perfect sense.

Last year, Charlotte had more than 8,000 homes fall into foreclosure.  Habitat discovered it can buy a foreclosed home, fix it up and still sell it for half the price of the cost to build a new one.

A win win win.

With the same money now put twice as many families in homes.

Clear foreclosed homes homes off the market.

And most importantly bring hope to a neighborhood that's seen plenty of scars.

"It's really tough to watch," says Green.  "As we began to see that in more and more neighborhoods we just said we've got to be part of the solution here."

The idea for Habitat originated in Florida which far outnumbers the Carolinas in the number of foreclosed homes but the concept is spreading across the country.

Using donated and federal HUD funds, Habitat Charlotte is looking at refurbishing foreclosed homes in these.. almost a dozen Charlotte neighborhoods.

Where thieves have come in and stolen air conditioning units.. for example.

Though the focus is expaning the mission is the same they need volunteer labor.

People like 20-year old Yoann from France.

He says, "Our school pushes to do humanatarian missions and you can do it in France whenever you want. We decided to come to go here in Charlotte to help Habitat."

They've not stopped building new homes, just taking advantage of an opportunity.  This enables Habitat to do more.

They've bought five, hope to get up to 75 foreclosed homes over the next several years.

All are vacant homes, they're not putting anyone out.

Doesn't seem like it but are there any downsides?  You wouldn't think of it in these terms, but Habitat's executive director says it doesn't take as much volunteer labor, which is a down side.

If you want to help volunteer or donate.. go to