Looking Towards the Financial Frontier

     In partnering with families from low-income backgrounds, Habitat SKC often meets people coming into our program with a survival mentality, living paycheck to paycheck and navigating problems or needs on the brink of financial crises.  We realized early on that successful homeowners need more than just a house—they also need help in transforming their financial habits and perspective. As a result, we proudly offer Homeowner Education classes supported by partners like BECU who share a vision for the financial empowerment of our communities.

 As a result of the 2017 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, the feedback we received from Habitat families shows the shift in how they prepare for their futures. Homeowner Su Vu shared that

“Habitat has provided a greater perspective on what our lives can be. Being an immigrant family, our perspective was to get by. With the help of Habitat, we realized our dreams of owning a home and providing for our family.”

Su’s experience, unfortunately, is common; whether living through the hardship of relocating to a new place, or coming from a family with generations of financial stress, stability with money can seem to many like a foreign concept. By offering direct financial literacy services in conjunction with basic needs, the Habitat model creates multiple points of impact to disrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty for people at various points of their financial journey.

     Habitat is known for providing decent and affordable housing to those in need, but it’s our exclusive focus on the financial vehicle of homeownership that makes the Habitat model transformative. Homeownership helped build the middle class in America in the 1950s, so it’s fitting that we offer the same opportunity to struggling families as a way of encouraging wealth accumulation, thereby shrinking the propensity towards intergenerational poverty. For people like homeowner Jennifer Chapman, having housing costs controlled through a mortgage and paying into building equity rather than a landlord allows families the capacity to finally build that nest egg to help them weather car trouble, layoffs, health issues, and all the other pitfalls in life. Jennifer stated,

“Moving to our house required me to move my kids out of their schools. This was a great challenge and a hard adjustment for them, BUT living in a stable environment for 9 years is invaluable. Being able to have a savings account, take vacations, purchase a new car, and pay for repairs without severe economic distress is life changing.”

     For most families, homeownership is the end to multiple moves and instability, allowing parents to invest more in the community, and kids to focus on their studies better. Children who spend eight or more years in an owned home are 4x more likely to graduate from a four-year college. Among the families who responded to our 2017 Homeowner Satisfaction Survey, 72% reported that their Habitat home helped their children’s grades improve and 76% of reported their overall financial security had improved. A majority of our homeowners – 67% – are doing better at saving money and many of them pass on their finance knowledge to their children, even enlisting them in financial classes Habitat offers to adolescent children and teenagers. Overall, 83% of Habitat families felt an increased sense of security in their future.

     These results stem from a combination of permanent shelter itself, financial literacy classes that teach families powerful habits and know-how around money, and other safety nets. For example, each Habitat community is governed by a Homeowner’s Association which manages some future exterior repair and maintenance of the home into homeowner’s monthly expenses. Additionally, as a safeguard against more devastating life events, Habitat offers a loan modification program that provides temporary relief around housing payments for Habitat homeowners who experience a loss of income through no fault of their own, such as a layoff, health emergency, or death. Through these programs, we’re proud to report that over 90% of our homeowners make their mortgage payments without delinquencies, and 99.3% are successful either staying in their Habitat homes, or moving on to market rate housing, utilizing the equity built in their Habitat homes.

     The success that Habitat homeowners enjoy would not be possible without dedicated supporters who share our vision of working with families for lasting, life-transformational change. Our nonprofit credit union partner, BECU has acted as the Financial Empowerment sponsor of our financial literacy classes, homeowners associations, and loan modification program, making it possible for us to deliver tangible solutions tailored to the needs of our community. Our financial literacy classes are taught by volunteer teachers from First Financial Northwest Bank and Allstate Insurance, and the program staff and operations of our Homeowner Services department are funded by The John C. and Karyl Kay Hughes Foundation.

    These partners’ dedication to community involvement and financial empowerment makes it easy for us to continue providing opportunities for financial empowerment and growth in local neighborhoods. Our experience shows that given the tools and knowledge to make good financial decisions, the families we serve will do so. Financial empowerment and educational programming helps families understand the importance of looking towards the future and planning for it accordingly.

     Habitat SKC is happy to invite the public to take advantage of all that we have to offer. If you, or somebody you know would like to take part in any of our finance and homeowner education classes, please send an email to apply@habitatskc.org for more information.