Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity built five homes in the area last year and plans to expand its program to help meet a rising need.

Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity built five homes in the area last year and plans to expand its program to help meet a rising need.

“Our goal for this year is to build 10 houses in Eastern Jackson County,” Executive Director Pat Turner told the Eastern Jackson County Builders and Developers Association Thursday evening. She said families have already been chosen for all 10.

Historically, the group – which has built 54 homes over the years – has put up two- and three-bedroom homes but is seeing a change in demand with changes in the economy. Last year, for example, it helped a family that needed a five-bedroom home with a wheelchair ramp.

Turner said there are some misconceptions about how the non-profit operates, chiefly that its work is a handout. In fact, she said, applicants are reviewed with three criteria in mind: need, ability to pay and willingness to be a partner in the process.

Specifically, Habitat does its own financing and mortgaging, and mortgages are interest free, but families do have to pay them. Those families also have to put their own time – at least 350 hours – into the project. With volunteer work and donations, a three-bedroom home that might bring $100,000 on the market can go up for $70,000 or so. Families also tend to stay in Habitat homes for the long term, and fewer than 2 percent end up in foreclosure.

“So they are helping to build our local economies. ... So Habitat’s model is to give a hand up rather than a hand out,”  Turner said.

She also pointed to changes in the economy. For example, 8.6 percent of Independence residents live below the poverty line.

“So there is really a dire need out there for what we do,” she said.

She urged local developers and home builders to help out however they can. The agency, based in Independence, gets support from several local organizations, such as fundraisers at Missouri Mavericks games.

Upcoming events include a house blessing at 2 p.m. Sunday at 1236 S. Scott Ave., Independence, and then, at 7 that evening, a benefit concert by area church choirs. It’s at Beacon Heights Community of Christ, 19402 E. Holke Road, Independence.