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Susan Bauer: Reflections on a Decade of Homeownership
In 2001, Susan Bauer was struggling. Make no mistake, she was grateful that she had a job and a roof over her head, but as any mother knows, parenting two teenage girls has its struggles. At the time, Susan was a single mother, not receiving child support, and using Section 8 to help pay housing expenses. Sometimes it felt like a never ending, uphill climb.
Susan recalled that over the years, she had heard of Habitat for Humanity: "They would talk about Habitat at church and I would see pictures of the homes, but it appeared that all the work was done outside of this country."
That perspective changed when she went to work for a residential contractor in DuPage County. Susan worked in the office, but soon found out that her boss, who was very philanthropic, would build one Habitat home per subdivision in his developments. "I actually found out about Habitat's US-based worked through my job at the time" she explained.
Now that Susan knew Habitat had domestic operations, her curiosity piqued, but she was still somewhat hesitant: "I had seen a lot of people lose their homes due to the inability to pay an adjusting mortgage. I had also seen people 'over build,' and as a result become house poor. They could not maintain their homes and were struggling to pay taxes." As a result, she was still hesitant to make the long term financial commitment required of homeowners.
In order to have more of her questions answered, Susan called Habitat International. The staff there explained the program in detail, including the 0% interest mortgage. She was told that Northern Fox Valley was the affiliate that serviced the area she lived in. With this information, she contacted our office. Susan took her first step toward being a partner family when she made the decision to attend a homeowner meeting at the First Congregational Church on Main Street in West Dundee.
Thinking back, Susan remembers that the application process was long. There was also a component that required her to really think about why she wanted to own a home and how she thought it would help her family. As she reflected on the 'why' of the application, Susan said, "I really did feel it would give me stability that was affordable, and privacy." When she found out her application was accepted, Susan was very excited.
However, it is important to recall that at the time, she was the parent of two teenage girls. Her oldest was finished with high school, but the younger one was just beginning. Due to costs, Habitat was not building houses in Palatine, and providing a permanent home for her family would require that Susan's youngest daughter attend a different high school that seemed very far away.
Susan smiles a little as she recalls, "My younger daughter did not want to leave Palatine, for all the obvious reasons that a teenager does not want to attend a new high school. She even went so far as to show the Habitat Board President some vacant lots in Palatine that she felt would be perfect for our home." While it was difficult at the time, now seeing how it all has unfolded, Susan absolutely believes that God had his hand on the whole process.
Susan's house was built in the Lake Marian subdivision in Carpentersville. She remembers having a lot of help through the process: "People from my church came out, as well as my parents. I learned a lot as well. I learned practical skills working on that house that I still use now whenever I need to make small repairs."
Throughout construction, Susan's younger daughter was still resistant, but in time she made some friends on the new street that would be attending Dundee-Crown High School with her. They really helped her through the transition between schools. Susan believes that the new school wound up having a more long term positive impact than any of them imagined it would.
The third week of school, her daughter met a young man that she dated all through high school and has since married. They currently have a 2 year old and a 7 month old.
In the end, owning the house has really been an enormous blessing for Susan: "I have ownership. I have stability. I am not reliant on any kind of subsidy or at the mercy of landlords. I have a place where my children and grandchildren can come and I can grow old, and I have a community to be a part of."
Millard and Linda Fuller, founders of Habitat for Humanity, visit Susan at her house during construction