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For Hillsborough’s Habitat for Humanity, a rare foreclosure

TAMPA — Tara Cummings went through a lengthy application process and put in 300 hours of volunteer work to earn a new house from Habitat for Humanity.

At the time, the mother of four said she was thrilled to be a first-time homeowner.

“We’re all very grateful, and the new house they’ve built is just great,” Cummings said in 2007.

Six years later, she and her family are about to lose the home for which they worked so hard.

Cummings, according to court records, has failed to pay the mortgage on the 1,248-square foot home in Wimauma for two years and owes about $61,000 plus late fees.

She had paid about $9,000 of the $70,000 mortgage before her payments stopped, court documents said.

Habitat for Humanity filed a complaint last month and has started the foreclosure process.

“It’s such an unfortunate situation,” said Jackie Buckler, the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Hillsborough County. “She worked hard.”

Buckler said she can’t even begin to guess why Cummings failed to make her mortgage payments. In the past, some clients have lost their jobs or simply stopped paying the mortgage, she said, though she noted the local chapter has had to take back very few homes.

Adam Rondeau, spokesman for Habitat for Humanity International, said foreclosures on Habitat homes are rare.

“Nationwide, we have less than 2 percent of our homes go into foreclosure annually,” Rondeau said.

In 2012, Habitat built or refurbished 3,766 homes across the U.S., he said.

More than 150 Habitat for Humanity homes have been built in Hillsborough County, Buckler said. Six new homes were completed last year.

Cummings, who no longer lives in the house at 5708 Camp St., could not be reached for comment.

“I have visited her property and she is not living there,” Buckler said.

Habitat officials expect the foreclosure process to take months. The next step would be to refurbish the house for the next homeowner.

Habitat homeowners pay a no-interest mortage of about $550 to $600 a month. If they start failing to make payments, caseworkers begin financial counseling or setting up deferred payments to help families avoid foreclosure.

The nonprofit, nondenominational Christian-base organization does “everything in our power to make homeowners successful,” Buckler said. “We try to take preventive steps.”

Cummings’ new home was revealed during a dedication ceremony on June 28, 2007. Cummings and her four young children attended the event and described how she helped raise the first wall on the house.

Cummings also was presented with a loaf of bread and candles, items meant to symbolize life.

Families have several guidelines to meet before they can be eligible for a Habitat for Humanity home. They need to demonstrate a need for adequate shelter and current substandard housing conditions, as well as minimum and maximum income guidelines.

There is also an application process that can take months or years, depending on a client’s credit rating.

Prospective homeowners must also put in 300 hours of “sweat equity,” volunteer work that includes lending a hand to help build their home and others.

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