Growing number of refugees are applying for Habitat homes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- A growing number of refugees are applying for Habitat for Humanity homes.

City officials say there are now 20,000 refugees in Buffalo, and at least 1,000 have arrived in the city this year.

At a Habitat for Humanity Buffalo house under construction, refugee Samuel Bakah remembered the labor he put into his own house.

“I just worked almost 600 hours and I got to own my own house,” said Bakah.

Bakah came to Buffalo nine years ago from Ethiopia and for the last two years he’s been a proud homeowner.

“We are excited to live in Buffalo, I feel like home,” said Bakah.

In 2008, only about 20 percent of Habitat homes in Buffalo went to refugees but now that number is closer to 60 percent. Executive Director Teresa Bianchi said most of those families are from African countries like South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Bianchi told News 4 the application process is the same for all families, refugee or otherwise.

“To be in our program you have to have a reliable income, you have to show W2’s, tax information for at least two years and you have to have a social security card,” she explained.

Each family also has to put in 500 hours of sweat equity, which includes 150 hours of work on another home plus 350 hours of work into their own.

The family has to pay back a 30 year mortgage.

“We don’t give away houses for free,” said Bianchi.

Bakah says it was worth the work and now he has a friend going through the process of becoming a homeowner through Habitat.

“It’s possible here in America, other places it’s not possible like this one,” said Bakah. “I’m happy for my house, I love my house.”

Bianchi stresses any low income family can apply for a home through Habitat for Humanity. Click here to apply.

She also told News 4 due to Buffalo’s resurgence they haven’t been getting as many home donations but they’re always in need. The organization is also looking for volunteers to work in the office, on committees and in family support. Click here to find out more. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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