A hand up for new homeowner

Jessica Winston became the proud owner of a rehabbed home on Johnson Road this week after working closely with Louisa’s Habitat for Humanity chapter for two years.

“I have two people here to motivate me,” Winston said, pointing to her sons Joshua, 11, and Jace, 7. She received the keys to her house from Habitat in a ceremony on Dec. 14.

Though Habitat is known best for working on new houses, in this case the nonprofit organization acquired an existing home that had been foreclosed on. 

“Normally you get an acre-and-a-half, unless the person buys their own land, and you get the bedrooms and kitchen, but you don’t get a dining room, garage and over two acres,” said Kimberly Liebsch, a Habitat steering committee member. 

Winston first met Liebsch and expressed her interest in being a candidate for a Habitat house in 2017. She was a Louisa County resident and had enough income—at least 25 percent of the area’s median income—to qualify. 

“We have that [requirement] because we want to set people up for success,” Liebsch said. “We ask them to participate in building or fixing up their home, because we’re a hand up, not a hand out. And we have to establish need. When I met Jessi she was living in a trailer that was not in the best of shape. There were leaks in it and mold and such, so she definitely wanted to partner with us.”

Liebsch said Winston cooperated throughout the process with her, Fulton Mortgage Company’s Rob Racer and Jeff Martin, who served as the house’s construction manager.

Initially, ownership of the home will be divided between Winston and Habitat through two mortgages, explained John Hanna, another steering committee member. Once Winston pays off her mortgage, the second mortgage will be forgiven.

“Sometimes people say, ‘Oh, you’re just giving away houses,’” Hanna said. “But they miss the most important point, which is that while they’re living in the house, we hope they will become participating members of the community and return what they got from Habitat.”

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