ON THE GROUND: Habitat for Humanity

Jennifer Sprinks

Scheme: Revolving Fund for Humanity in Toxteth, Liverpool

Funding: Site donated by the Catholic Church and building materials funded by various sponsors

Objectives: To provide homes for people on low incomes in need of housing

International Christian housing charity Habitat for Humanity is launching a project to build 32 homes in Toxteth, Liverpool, as part of its mission to eliminate poor housing and homelessness worldwide.

The new three and four-bedroom houses will cost £50,000 each, funded by sponsors. Their owners will pay an interest-free mortgage to the charity, which works out as £45 per week for a three-bedroom house over 20 years.

The money repaid to the charity will be used to build more homes.

The site was donated by the Catholic Church, and marks the first time that land has been given free to the charity in the UK. Father Peter Morgan said: "This scheme means people who thought they could never afford their own home get a chance."

More than 100 interested families turned out to a project exhibition opposite the construction site last month. A rigorous selection process has now begun to assess the families' housing needs and their ability to pay the mortgage.

Those selected will have to commit 500 hours' work on the project as a deposit, known as 'sweat equity'. Office work and PR duties are also available to those with less physical stamina, although every individual needs to complete at least 150 hours of labour-intensive work.

In return, the families will receive lessons in English, budgeting, DIY and fire safety.

The foundations of the plan and site clearance are due to be under way in March. The first five houses will be ready by this Autumn, and the scheme is expected to take up to two years to complete.

Marie Kearney, project manager at Liverpool Habitat For Humanity, said: "The timing depends on when we have sufficient volunteers, and we can only begin construction once we have the money for mortgages."

"Every penny goes right back into the project at Biltmore House, and we have given it the name, 'Revolving fund for humanity', since all money that comes in stays within the charity. It involves complete regeneration and sustainability," she said.

The scheme will rely mainly on assistance from volunteers, but a qualified construction site manager and permanent site supervisor or electrician will be employed.

Tennis legend Ilie Nastase - who is due to appear at the Liverpool International Tennis Tournament in June - is pledging his support to the scheme and will take to the building site for one day to contribute his labour.

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