The following content is featured in the Atlanta & North Central Georgia Spring 2016 edition of The Who’s Who in Building & Construction.
Revitalizing the Neighborhood
Habitat for Humanity Readies for Next 40 Years in the Community
Born from a “partnership housing” concept first demonstrated in Americus, Ga., in the 1960s, Habitat for Humanity has helped build and rehabilitate over one million homes around the world. The 501(c)(3) organization, officially founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, has helped over 6.8 million people in the last 40 years. During the last fiscal year, the nonprofit built, rehabilitated and repaired almost 10,000 homes across the country.
Yet, a closer look at the organization’s model reveals that it does much more than provide safe havens. It establishes an extraordinary helping hand that builds confidence, responsibility and—at its heart—a community.
The success of the organization is in its unique pride-of-ownership model, which requires that every family contribute time and money to the process. Every home is built or renovated in partnership with the future homeowners and with support from volunteers in the community. The homes are then purchased by the family through affordable monthly mortgage payments.
Today, as it celebrates 40 years, Habitat for Humanity is pushing its globally successful model beyond individual housing programs to entire neighborhoods. Its revitalization initiative will help residents take back communities that have been ravaged by crime and poverty.
Building the Relationships
The operational headquarters of Habitat for Humanity is still located in Americus, while the administrative headquarters is in Atlanta. The program is facilitated by nearly 1,400 independently operated offices in the U.S., Canada and another 70 countries around the world—and over two million volunteers annually.
Habitat for Humanity homes are also built safely, with materials that last and with an eye on accessibility for any age group, physical ability or life status. In fact, the National Association of Home Builders recognized Habitat for Humanity International with its 2016 Single Family Builder Safety Program of the Year Award. The homes also emphasize sustainability, some with advanced energy technologies such as geothermal and solar systems. It’s estimated that about two-thirds of Habitat for Humanity homes in the U.S. met or exceeded ENERGY STAR requirements in 2015.
Larry Gluth, Senior Vice President of the U.S. and Canada areas of Habitat for Humanity International, says, “I’d put the quality of our homes up against the best home builders. And because our families typically stay in their homes for several years, we’ve made a conscious effort to incorporate universal design elements into our homes.
We’re really blessed with a large volunteer base—and depend heavily on support from the design and construction community.”
One particularly popular and successful annual event is the Home Builders Blitz, a week-long effort where Habitat teams up with local professional builders in communities across the U.S. to build and renovate as many houses as possible. During these events, sponsor companies bring in their staff and subcontractors for one week to build a home. Last year, the teams built 200 homes during the blitz week. In 2016, volunteer teams plan to build, renovate or repair nearly 250 new homes in 31 states. This year’s Home Builders Blitz event is scheduled for June 6-10.
“Through the new Neighborhood Revitalization program, we can help communities take back their neighborhoods.” – Larry Gluth, Senior Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International – U.S. and Canada
ReStore and Reuse
Today, there are more than 920 nonprofit Habitat ReStores in five countries, each independently owned and operated by a local Habitat for Humanity. The stores, each relying on a small staff and numerous volunteers, sell new and gently used furniture, appliances, home accessories, building materials and more to the public. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first-ever Habitat for Humanity ReStore, established in 1991 in Winnipeg, Canada. The first U.S. Habitat ReStore center opened in 1992 in Austin, Texas.
Gluth says, “The idea for Habitat ReStore came about because of the growing stream of donations of building materials and household goods from our sponsors and the community. Many of these items are one off, obsolete or don’t fit the home designs currently in work. The Winnipeg office came up with the idea to have a garage sale and used the money raised to fund new homes in their local community. That idea has evolved over the years into a retail concept that we have today.”
Habitat ReStores provide environmental benefits as well. For instance, appliances that are not functioning are stripped down for parts and materials. In the last year, Habitat ReStore centers kept 128,000 tons of material out of landfills by upcycling and recycling.
“Habitat ReStores are an incredible social enterprise story,” adds Gluth. “The stores in the U.S. generated $118 million dollars in 2015. We believe there’s good potential for another 500 to 600 additional locations in the coming years.”
A Holistic Influence
Looking ahead, Habitat for Humanity leadership will continue to raise awareness about the need for affordable shelters, as well as growing financing opportunities for low-income families.
One particular focus involves escalating the organization’s Neighborhood Revitalization program, an effort that pushes beyond housing programs. Habitat representatives partner with community leaders and residents to make more sustained, measurable impacts in neighborhoods.
“We’re looking at neighborhoods more holistically,” Gluth emphasizes. “That means evaluating all the elements of an effective community, which includes education, job access, transportation, health care and residential networks, along with good housing.”
In April 2013, Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity launched the first Neighborhood Revitalization pilot project in Washington Park, a neighborhood with over 10,000 residents, of which 53 percent are unemployed and only 43 percent are homeowners. The goal of the program was to add rehab, home repairs and community development services to its new construction effort. It also empowers residents by encouraging active participation in enhancing their quality of life.
“Operation Home Delivery…was a life-changing experience for me.” – Larry Gluth, Senior Vice President, Habitat for Humanity International – U.S. and Canada
“The results have been impressive,” says Gluth. “We’ve helped build 58 new homes in that area and the community has seen a 9 percent increase in home values. More importantly, these communities have taken back their neighborhoods. Statistics show that since the program began, violent crime has gone down by 30 percent in Washington Park.”
Currently, there are 200 Habitat offices that incorporate Neighborhood Revitalization projects into their work. They raised more than $38 million and worked in more than 265 neighborhoods in 2015.
Look for a Neighborhood Revitalization program in your area.