Despite the stress and uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact on many businesses, the poison of systemic racism, the high unemployment rates and tension surrounding the national election, we still have cause for celebration and the following tells why:
We made the difficult decision of closing our ReStores for eleven weeks in Mid-March and requiring our office staff to work from home. Fortunately, our staff did a wonderful job of keeping the business going during this time by conducting meetings on Zoom, Microsoft Teams and other virtual communication venues. Because of our strong partnership with Sandy Spring Bank, we were approved for Small Business Association’s Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) that allowed us to keep our staff on full payroll and benefits during this time.
When we reopened the ReStores in early June, we were inundated with donations from individuals and businesses who conveniently took the Stay-at-Home order as an opportunity to clean out a lot of furniture and household items that come into our stores daily. Our ReStore staff worked hard to prepare our stores for re-opening despite not having the help of regular volunteers. We continue to receive high-quality donations that are resold to our customers at a deep discount. Our ReStores located in Rockville and Silver Spring have achieved or exceeded their budget every month since we reopened. And, we celebrate the fact that our ReStores achieve the dual goals of environmental stewardship and contribution of net proceeds to our affordable housing programs.
Why is Habitat for Humanity’s homeownership program so successful during a crisis when many lower income people lose their jobs and are forced to apply for unemployment benefits? Because Habitat finances the mortgage! Habitat for Humanity sells homes to qualified homebuyers with household income at 80% of Area Median Income, or less. Habitat for Humanity provides a 30-year zero interest loan, with 1% down payment and the closing costs are rolled into the mortgage principal. Many of our homeowners are Gig Workers, and some of them were furloughed or laid off during the pandemic. During the past year, we were able to offer mortgage forbearance of three to six months for people who suddenly lost income and have limited savings. Upon approval, the forbearance of principal payments is added to the back end of the 30-year mortgage. Habitat homeowners continued to pay taxes and insurance into their escrow account, but Habitat was able to keep families in their homes without the threat of foreclosure.
Our construction team persevered during the pandemic to complete two Universal Design Homes. One home was sold to a disabled veteran and another was sold to a single mother with two children – one of whom has complex medical issues. Universal Design homes provide accessibility because they provide space for wheelchair, walker, or motor scooter use throughout the living space. These homes are built with energy efficiency features including spray foam insulation, toxic free materials, and water efficiency.
Missing Middle Housing
Missing Middle Housing (MMH) is a term that describes multi-unit housing types such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes, that are integrated throughout neighborhoods. MMH provides diverse housing choices and generates enough density to support transit and locally-serving commercial amenities. We are in desperate need of affordable housing, so MMH types are perfect for Habitat’s model of healthy and affordable homeownership.
The City of Takoma Park approached Habitat for Humanity about partnering on the execution of the City’s Right of First Refusal on a property listed for sale. A single-family detached home, currently split into 3 apartments, was being sold from a private seller to a private buyer. The City of Takoma Park assigned its Right of First Refusal to Habitat for Humanity so that Habitat could purchase the home at the listed sales price. We are now in the process of subdividing the land and converting the property into a duplex of one 3-bedroom unit and one 2 bedroom unit. These homeownership units will be sold to qualified buyers. We are grateful to attorneys at Lerch Early & Brewer who are providing pro bono legal services for the subdivision process and to the City of Takoma Park for providing $200,000 from their Housing Fund. We estimate the property will be ready for construction in June, 2021. Please see our website for updates here.
We completed our 10th year of providing repairs and weatherization of owner-occupied homes. Most of our clients are older adults on fixed income who would like to age in place and need repairs or modifications to their homes such as roof replacement, furnace replacement, ramps, grab bars, and other items to guarantee health and safety. We are on track to average 80 projects every year as part of our five-year strategic plan. See our Strategic Plan.
Our fundraising team did a fantastic job in the face of strict safety protocol and social distancing. Women Build was extended until the end of October to accommodate nearly 50 teams of 10 women on our construction site. Women Build teams raise thousands of dollars every year for affordable housing programs.
In an abundance of caution, our golf tournament was rescheduled from June to October. This was our 15th Annual Tournament at Whiskey Creek Country Club and this year the tournament was named The John Lippincott Memorial Golf Tournament in honor of John Lippincott, Chair of our Golf Committee, who died last year. We miss John, but honor his lifetime of generosity and good nature.
It seems like all meetings and events are virtual these days. We successfully conducted a Virtual Morning Mixer in place of our annual in-person benefit breakfast. It was another great success as evidenced by businesses sponsorships, table hosts, and pledges for donations that exceeded our budget goal. Thanks to our staff and Board of Directors for support and participation. Listen to the speech by a recent Habitat homeowner here.
The Development Dept. team did a great job of creating virtual build experiences for volunteers that provided great fun and was highly successful.
Community Development and Social Justice
We continuously advocate for opportunities to create healthy and affordable homes. Virtual meetings with elected officials and housing partners are efficient and save travel time. We believe a healthy home means fewer doctor visits and better outcomes for school age children. We make sure that Habitat homes are affordable by not selling a home for more than the appraised value or more than 30% of the buyer’s income.
We believe housing justice is racial justice. Since 1982, over 90% of the families we serve with healthy and affordable homeownership are people of color. Ownership of a Habitat home provides an opportunity for inter-generational wealth transfer by building up equity over time.
This year we launched a web page here that provides a history of systemic racism in housing. It is critical for all of us to educate ourselves and speak up against racial injustice.
Thanks to our Volunteers
We could not do our work without the support and participation of the nearly 4,000 volunteers who serve on our Board of Directors, who work on various committees, and who work in the ReStores and on construction sites. And, you guessed it, we did a virtual Volunteer Recognition Event in December. Check it out here.
Contact Sandra Limjuco, Volunteer Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about volunteer opportunities. Thank you!