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Habitat for Humanity moves up in sluggish housing market

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Bill Radke: The housing industry has been staggering lately and that has brought a nonprofit into the top rung. Habitat for Humanity is now one of America's top 10 homebuilders. First time that's happened. Marketplace's Janet Babin is with us live. Hi Janet.

Janet Babin: Hey Bill.

Radke: How does Habitat for Humanity rank?

Babin: Well, it ranked eighth in Builder Magazine's Top Ten list of builders, Wall Street Journal reports today. So, number 8 -- not too bad for a Christian nonprofit started some 30 years ago to help low-income families achieve the American dream.

Radke: And how has a charity beat out some of the biggest homebuilders in the country?

Babin: Well new homes just aren't selling in this economy, right. New home sales fell 32 percent in May, the lowest level on record ever. Nicolas Retsinas is Director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University:

Nicolas Retsinas: In a sense, it's very simple arithmatic: Habitat's numbers keep growing, though slightly, the larger builders numbers keep falling, and as a result, Habitat moves up the list.

Radke: So does this, Janet, mean Habitat for Humanity is now a major player?

Babin: Well, Habitat for Humanity certainly filled a niche that other homebuilders had been ignoring up until now: affordable housing. But Nic Retsinas says that's changing, and that the national builders are beginning to respond to that need with smaller new homes and more affordable options.

Radke: Marketplace's Janet Babin. Janet, thank you.

Babin: Thank you, Bill.

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Our local Habitat affiliate has been rehabbing foreclosures for over a year now. In an effort to maximize our funding, both private and state, and improve local neighborhoods, we've put at least 5 families in rehabs this past year with more in the wings. Our executive director is Joe Tennessen at 970-351-6766. Thank you, Board Member, Meg Spencer

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