Home Means Comfort and Safety for the Ibrahims

When he was a boy in Ethiopia, Ana Ibrahim prayed for three things — a bike, to reunite with his parents, and to move to America. When he was very young, Ana’s mother died in Ethiopia and his Aunt cared for him while his father and stepmother moved to the U.S. in 2001 for a better life. He was able to reunite with them in 2009, but when his father and stepmother divorced, Ana chose to live with his stepmother and half-sister Hajo in the Seattle area. “I’m a grown up now and I want to take care of my mother and sister,” Ana says.

The Ibrahim family, Mother Habiba, sister Hajo and Ana have moved four times since 2015 from rental housing either because rents continually increased beyond their budget, or the neighborhood was dangerous … or both. Says Ana, “Any time we bought furniture, we had to make sure it wasn’t heavy, because we knew we’d be moving it soon.” In September, they’ll move into their own three-bedroom home in Highland Terrace, West Seattle, thanks to Habitat. And they won’t have to move again.

As Muslims, they originally chose the Seattle area because, “it celebrates diversity and provides you with many opportunities you won’t easily find anywhere else,” says Ana.  They have made the most of those opportunities. Habiba works nights as a custodian, Hajo is a full-time student and, after completing his education in 2020, Ana landed his current job as an IT support professional for a Seattle law firm. The Ibrahims applied for a Habitat home once before being accepted; it was the addition of Ana’s income that made them eligible for a home this time.

After working a full five days each week, the family spends Saturdays helping to build their new home. It’s worth the effort, they declare. They are grateful to Habitat for giving them a place they can finally call home, where they don’t have to worry about the unpredictable rent increases and the regular struggle to find a safe place within their budget. “The comfort of knowing you finally own a home is something indescribable,” says Ana. “It will definitely be a new chapter in our life where we can find the relief of knowing we never have to move again.”

The mortgage for their Habitat home will be slightly less than their current rent, and they’re excited about building some wealth for the future.

Ana has already found his favorite restaurant in their new neighborhood and he’s looking forward to exploring more. Habiba is enthusiastic about cooking more in her new kitchen and Hajo will continue her henna hobby in the safety of their own home. 

Persistence has paid off for the Ibrahims.  “Try to do better than yesterday,” is their motto, and it’s already promising better tomorrows for them thanks to Habitat.

Habitat for Humanity SKKC’s Debt Remediation Pilot Program Aims to Relieve Key Obstacle for Black Homebuyers: Excessive Debt

To amplify Habitat’s Black Homeownership Initiative, Habitat for Humanity SKKC has launched a Debt Remediation Pilot Program (DRPP). The overall ratio of Black homebuyer applicants is only 6%. Of those, 10% are denied. While the SKKC affiliate has long maintained a higher ratio of Black homeowners at 34%, it realized more needed to be done to help those impacted by historical redlining and institutionalized credit policies.

Excessive debt is often an obstacle to Black homebuyers, particularly first-time homebuyers.  Habitat’s Debt Remediation Pilot Program is aimed at removing that obstacle by paying off those debts and enabling the buyer to secure financing from a traditional lender. Habitat staff are collaborating with other community housing organizations, such as The Urban League, HomeSight, and Africatown to recruit qualifying candidates for the program. 

Applicants referred to Habitat SKKC will be selected using standard criteria, with the final review point being their excessive debt. Once applicants meet the criteria for participation in Habitat home buying, their debt is reviewed and paid. Types of debt that might qualify under this new program include deferred student loans, tax liens or other government judgments, and others assessed on a case-by-case basis, such as medical debt, debts due to identity theft, etc. Their refreshed credit status allows lenders to finance the buyer.

The DRPP agreement adds a level of oversight to the traditional Habitat homebuyer process. Habitat staff simply monitor the homebuyer’s finances monthly to insure there are no changes in income or assets while their home is under construction. The DRPP funding of $250,000 aims to support 5-10 households in Habitat’s 2022-2023 fiscal year.

Homebuyers participating in the DRPP contribute an additional 125 hours of sweat equity and sign their final agreement when their home is completed. The debt payment is built into the buyer’s affordable house payment. When the home is sold back to SKKC, the debt payment portion of the sale will be returned to the Pilot Program’s account to help future Black homebuyers.

Homeownership in the U.S. constitutes the largest component of median household wealth through intergenerational wealth transfer. The wealth gap created by generations of discriminatory housing practices has left Black families without the benefit of decades of real estate appreciation, which could be leveraged to help their children and grandchildren become homeowners, pay for college, or weather financial challenges.

The Debt Remediation Pilot Program is another step toward chipping away at institutionalized obstacles to Black Homeownership, and it represents Habitat SKKC’s deep commitment to supporting Black families in the region. For more information on Habitat for Humanity SKKC’s new Debt Remediation Pilot Program, please visit: https://buyhabitat.org/debt-remediation-fund/

Habitat Critical Repairs Lighten the Load In Every Way

Chris Grant, a 74-year-old Renton native, was worried about how he would pay for needed repairs on the home he’s occupied since 2006. His 40-year-old carpet was causing him breathing problems and some of the home’s exterior features were dangerously deteriorating.

The steps outside of his house had pulled away allowing rain to pour into his crawl space, and they were treacherously slippery. Rotting wood on the exterior of his home needed replacement to prevent further damage; and he could no longer climb a ladder to clean his gutters. “The prospect of fixing these problems was wearing on me for a couple of years,” he shared.

This summer, Chris became curious about Habitat for Humanity vans he saw at some of his neighbors’ homes, “Then, somebody left a Habitat flier on my doorknob, and I contacted Ms. Madison.” Madison Vernon, Habitat’sHomebuyer Selection Program Coordinator, walked Chris through the application process. Habitat staff and AmeriCorps volunteers started repairs on his home just a few weeks later. Chris was surprised at the speed of the process, only about six weeks from start to finish. “I was fortunate that my request went in at the same time they were working on my neighbors’ houses,” he said.   

The Habitat/AmeriCorps crew did, indeed, apply efficiency in Chris’ Renton neighborhood.  They worked simultaneously on his home and three others nearby, which allowed them to tackle similar and specialty projects on all four homes at once. Chris was pleased with the work they did on his home, from replacing rotting wood on the outside to closing a leak caused by a gap in his front steps and replacing that old carpet with laminate flooring. They even trimmed an overgrown bush that was encroaching on his house.

“The place looks like a million bucks now…all the way to the sidewalk,” he said. And much of that old worry is relieved. “Thanks be to God Habitat came around and took away a lot of that agony.” All told, the repairs Habitat staff and AmeriCorps volunteers applied to Chris Grant’s home would total nearly $9,500, which he received at a fraction.

Now a ‘lighter,’ Chris Grant can be seen photographing favorite scenes around his hometown… when he’s not cuddling with his beloved 4-year-old rescue pup, Coco.  

To learn more about Habitat SKC’s Repairs program helping low-income individuals address critical home repairs while allowing seniors to “age in place” click here.

Volunteer Energy Powers Habitat for Humanity SKKC’s Success

At our Volunteer & Donor Appreciation Night at Lagunitas Brewing Company in Ballard in December, Habitat for Humanity SKKC celebrated the volunteers, donors and advocates who form the engine that drives our affiliate’s success. Because of the contributions made in 2022 by Habitat volunteers, donors, and advocates, 50 King and Kittitas County families who couldn’t otherwise own their own homes are eligible for homeownership in 2023. And that’s only the beginning.

In more than 30,000 hours of donated time and work, our volunteers were able to build, renovate, and repair 74 homes last year. Volunteers who staffed Habitat stores sold over 400,000 items the proceeds of which provide financial support to augment all that hard work. The hours and results testify to the joy of working with others to create safe, affordable homes for people from all walks of life.

And some volunteers received special recognition for going above and beyond in 2022 – the following individuals were recognized as Habitat “All Stars.”

  • Mary Castillo – Habitat Stores Volunteer of the Year
  • Nancy Blase – Homeowner Services Volunteer of the Year
  • Beverly Skeffington, Diane Lampe, Terie McCunn – Construction Volunteers of the Year
  • Gary Fallon – 2022 Habitat SKC Volunteer of the Year

At the event, Habitat inaugurated the Manny Weiser Volunteer Service Award named in memory of long-time volunteer Manny and the incredible dedication and supportive attitude he brought to the work site every day. The first winners of this award for exceptional service are an itinerant team of young adults from Christian Public Service. This group travels the country fulfilling six-month service terms at places like hospitals and nursing homes. Habitat has benefited from their help and expertise on our build sites twice a week for many years.  

If these people and their accomplishments inspire you, now is the perfect time to reach out and reap the joy of volunteering. Simply email volunteer@habitatskc.org to learn more, and with luck, Habitat will be celebrating your impacts in the years ahead!

Homeownership Builds Community

Homeownership is about so much more than a simple roof over one’s head. It’s also about community, which means finding a neighborhood that feels like home. 

For Shukri Yusuf, who arrived in the Seattle area from Mombasa, Kenya at 12, West Seattle has been home since 2004. Over the years, Shukri got married there, had a son, and became a single mother in 2020. She remained in West Seattle throughout where she teaches in a neighborhood public school, living with her parents as she saved for a down payment on her own home. 

The more she saved, though, and looked around Seattle for housing, the more she realized she was severely out-priced. She feared she would have to leave West Seattle, or even the state, if she was to find an affordable house for herself and son, Zayn. The idea of leaving her beloved neighborhood for a house she could afford in a place where she knew no one was a poor option and one she dreaded.

Shukri explored any and all possibilities in her search for a way to remain in the community and still have a home of her own. She considered getting a down payment grant for a condo, even though getting a condo anywhere close to her beloved West Seattle neighborhood was impossible. As she searched, she learned about Habitat for Humanity through the King County homeowner assistance website. With help from Habitat, she was able to purchase a newly constructed, three-bedroom home in West Seattle – the first home she’s ever owned.

Shukri and Zayn now live in their own home in the neighborhood they call Home. It’s just five minutes from the school where Shukri teaches. Zayn is growing up in a supportive community where he’ll have maximum opportunities to thrive. For Shukri, this means planting roots and growing herself in a safe place with friends and family to share life’s ups and downs. As she says, Shukri is finally Home.

“When you have a community that you connect with it can offer you support in all of life’s phases. I feel a part of the community that I have called home since 2004 and I feel supported through some of the tough times that I have experienced in the past … I see it as my duty to help and support others that need help in my school community.”

More than a house, a home of one’s own builds Community through a sense of belonging and pride in the neighborhood called Home. It’s a hidden legacy that comes with help from Habitat for Humanity.