Becoming a Habitat for Humanity Homeowner

The Partner Family
Habitat for Humanity of Tompkins and Cortland Counties (TCHFH) is dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and providing low-income families with the joy and dignity of homeownership. We do this by partnering with qualified families who are truly committed to achieving that same goal.

To be eligible to become a Habitat for Humanity Partner Family, you must first show us that you truly want to be a homeowner, but cannot afford a traditional home loan.

“Sweat equity” is the hands-on involvement of future Habitat homeowners in building their own home, or working on other houses or projects for Habitat. Working with us in this way shows that you are sincere about owning a home. TCHFH requires 500 hours of sweat equity per family. Relatives and friends can help you complete some of your hours. Helping to build your own home will give you a valuable sense of pride and ownership. You will also make many new friends and learn useful skills.

The Process
We want to identify the most deserving families for our homes and will do our best to help you through the application process. Each application that we receive is carefully reviewed.  We take great pride in our partner families and want you to succeed as a Habitat homeowner.

We consider three important factors when choosing our partner families:

  • Need for adequate shelter:
    We look at your current housing:  Are you overcrowded? Is your rent more than half of your gross income? Is it safe? What other poor conditions are there?
  • Ability to pay for the Habitat home:
    We look at items such as your monthly expenses, your debt, and your credit history. Will you have enough monthly income to make payments on a modest mortgage for your house? Do you meet our income criteria? Our partner families typically have incomes that are too low to qualify for a conventional mortgage with a bank or lender.
  • Willingness to partner:
    You must be willing to carefully and clearly complete our application and return it in a timely manner; the same goes for other forms that we may ask of you. You’ll also need to agree to save the money necessary for a down payment and closing costs, and agree to our “sweat equity” requirements.

At Habitat, we understand that working toward the goal of homeownership can be a long-term process.  We are interested in working with families who are dedicated to becoming homeowners, even if that process takes time.


  • Must have lived, worked or had children in a school district in either Tompkins or Cortland County for at least one year before applying.
  • Must meet our income criteria: Up to 60% of the current county median income (determined annually by Housing and Urban Development).
  • Include the income of all adults who will live in the home when applying.
  • We do not discriminate based on age, race, color, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, or familial status.
  • Your mortgage would be based on your household income, and will not exceed 30% of your gross household income.

How to Apply
Start our application process online today or contact our office if you’re interested in applying for a Habitat home.  We will be in touch with you to answer questions and further discuss the application process and requirements:

Know someone you think might be interested? Please let them know about us!