Cost of Home Program Celebrates Three Years of Home Affordability Focusing Now on Black Homeownership Gap

On June 12, 2022, Habitat for Humanity International marked the third anniversary of its global Cost of Home (COH) campaign, a collaboration among more than 400 Habitat affiliates worldwide working to increase access to home affordability and stability through policy and system changes at all levels of government. In three short years, 6.1 million people’s lives have already been transformed.

Thanks to a grant from HFH International, Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King & Kittitas County’s COH has contributed to helping 1.6 million people who have or will benefit from the nearly $1.3 billion assessed for affordable housing across the housing spectrum in our region.

Habitat SKC’s Cost of Home program has generated nearly 10,000 letters to lawmakers from homeowners and advocates, published news stories and Op-Eds in local papers to support their work, hosted Governor Jay Inslee at a Seattle build site for a press event focused on funding for “missing middle” housing and homeownership policy, and worked diligently to extend state and city eviction moratoriums, as well as a range of other tenant protection provisions.

This year, Habitat for Humanity International will amplify the Cost of Home program by launching its Advancing Black Homeownership initiative.  Thanks to a recent, beyond generous donation from MacKenzie Scott, Habitat will apply COH tools to engage in policy and systems change for Black families. Currently, only 43.1% of Black Americans own homes, compared to 74.4% of white Americans – an historic 30% gap.

Habitat International will initially invest more than $25 million over the next three to five years — with a goal of raising $100 million or more — to develop and launch a slate of new programs, including an equitable commercial lending strategy and property acquisition fund through Habitat Mortgage Solutions, HFHs community development financial institution. These are substantive answers to some of the racial and systemic biases that have stymied Black access to homeownership for generations. The initiative’s programs will help end the social and economic disparity many Black people and communities of color continue to face. 

Habitat SKC has embraced and will continue to support efforts to grow homeownership opportunities for our Black communities. On the legislative front, Habitat SKC’s COH program succeeded in ending exclusionary neighborhood councils during the 2022 session. We are working to alter the Seattle land use code designation, increase city level growth targets and it has advanced conversation on exclusionary zoning statewide.

While Cost of Homes aims to tackle the unprecedented record shortage of affordable homes overall, the addition of the Advancing Black Homeownership initiative is a natural during June as National Homeownership Month and as we mark our country’s second Independence Day with Juneteenth. This advocacy work allows Habitat for Humanity to expand its work locally and internationally.

It’s more important than ever to celebrate the value that owning a home brings to families, communities, and neighborhoods. There is no better example than the families with whom Habitat partners. For these individuals, homeownership means safety, security, and a sense of belonging. On a grand scale, affordable homeownership creates a diverse and inclusive community and helps keep our workforce strong.

With inflation skyrocketing to a 40-year high, everyday Americans are struggling even more to balance the cost of housing and other necessities. Habitat’s Cost of Home program becomes even more critical in advocating to ensure that everyonehas a safe, decent, and affordable place to live.

Please thank your legislative leaders for doing so much so far by following this link: https://p2a.co/bBrgW6F

Critical Home Repair Spotlight: Sandra

Sandra Browne is a single, 83-year-old woman whose grandfather was an enslaved person from the Deep South. In 1884, after slavery had legally ended in America, her grandfather moved to the Seattle area to escape racism and discrimination, and to search for better opportunities for his family and himself. Ever since, the family has lived and thrived in Skyway, a neighborhood nestled between Renton and Tukwila.

As age and weather began to take its toll on Sandra’s home, she reached out to Habitat’s Repair Program for assistance when she noticed her roof was leaking. Habitat worked with a roofer to replace her roof, repair water damage, and install new fascia and downspouts. Inside her home, Habitat also repaired the ceiling in her bedroom where the roof had leaked. There were many nights before the home repair where Sandra found herself so worried about her bedroom roof caving in from water leaks—which was a valid concern—that she slept in other parts of her home.

The repairs to her home have given Sandra more pride in her dwelling, as well as a sense of security and safety. She said it meant a lot to have her roof repaired, so she could go back to sleeping in her bedroom, where she feels the most comfortable.

Being able to sleep in one’s own bed should be a nonissue. For many homeowners, however, especially low-to-moderate income homeowners and older adults, critical repairs just like Sandra’s can go unfulfilled. Having the right partner resources is a critical link. Habitat’s Home Repair Program works with homeowners who need assistance with critical repairs that will ease health and safety issues and increase their quality of life in the home. The program helps keep low- and moderate- income homeowners not just safely in their primary residence, but also in the community they know and love.

Learn more about the program here. http://www.habitatskc.org/what-we-do/home-repairs/

Bank of America Earns Habitat SKC’s Community Leader of the Year Award

With more than 155 volunteer shifts across 19 different group volunteer days, along with significant financial contributions, Bank of America has earned Habitat for Humanity Seattle-King County’s 2022 Community Leader of the Year award. Bank of America volunteers have been instrumental at Habitat builds, repair sites and in Habitat stores throughout the region since 1995, displaying exceptional personal and corporate commitment to our shared vision of decent and affordable housing for everyone.

In presenting the Award at this year’s ‘Beyond the Build’ luncheon at Seattle Convention Center on June 2, Habitat Board President Kat Sims recognized Bank of America’s long-standing relationship with Habitat for Humanity International, including cash and property donations topping $75 million. “Bank of America sets the gold standard for what it means to be a Habitat corporate partner,” said Sims as she welcomed Bank of America Seattle Market President Kerri Schroeder to the luncheon stage. 

Through direct action and investment, Bank of America is focused on creating opportunities in the areas of health, jobs training, small business support and affordable housing, as these areas are where systemic, long-term gaps have existed and where significant change is required to achieve sustainable progress.

Most recently, a Bank of America employee team showed up on our Habitat site in North Bend on May 25 to work with Habitat homeowners, construction staff and AmeriCorps volunteers on the soon-to-be Tyler Town Community’s home exteriors, installing Hardie lap siding. They added interior framing walls to the interiors and helped with painting and window installation. This team just keeps on adding hours to Bank of America’s already exceptional contributions to Habitat and prospective homeowners!

After accepting the award at the BTB Luncheon, Kerri Schroeder reiterated the corporation’s goals, “As Bank of America continues in our commitment to responsible growth in the communities we serve, we seek out partners that build pathways to economic mobility and stability. Habitat for Humanity has been one of those steadfast partners for decades, so we’re deeply honored by this recognition as we continue to work together to find solutions that expand safe and stable housing here in King County and beyond.”

Photo credit: Alabastro Photography

Habitat in the News KIRO 7: Repairs done by Habitat for Humanity help keep people in their homes

Habitat for Humanity Seattle—King & Kittitas Counties is heading into one of its largest fundraising weeks with its “Beyond the Build luncheon” — sponsored by KIRO 7 — coming up next week.

The group has hit some major milestones this year. KIRO 7 reporter Ranji Sinha spoke with Debbie Waters, who said the group’s work isn’t just about building from the ground up, it’s also working to keep people in their homes.

“I didn’t realize that they did the repair work.”

Habitat Home Repairs recipient Debbie Waters, who said she had lived with a rickety staircase for years.

Read the full article here.

Meet Our 2022 Beyond the Build Luncheon Emcee: Aaron Wright

Aaron Wright, evening anchor and reporter at KIRO7 News, will emcee this year’s Beyond the Build luncheon on Thursday, June 2 at the Washington State Convention Center.  No stranger to Habitat for Humanity, Aaron volunteered with the Rockford, Illinois chapter during his first TV news position upon graduating from Hampton University.

Since then, Aaron’s journalism credentials include an Emmy he earned for best evening newscast in San Antonio, Texas, where his news coverage included the deadly Gatlinburg Wildfires of 2016.  His reporting consistently leans toward service to the people in his stories. Aaron’s takeaway from covering those fires is, “People lost a lot, but we were able to get out and show the reality of what they were going through and help the community by making sure they weren’t forgotten when the fires were over.”

Aaron’s attitude toward service as the foundation of his work makes him a perfect emcee for Beyond the Build 2022. Aaron believes journalism is service and, at its best, it uplifts the community, exposes corruption, and helps people in need. It’s that attention to people in need that inspired Aaron to jump at the chance to emcee Habitat’s biggest fundraiser of the year.  Aaron has worked at two TV stations that sent volunteer teams to Habitat builds, and he was impressed by the outcomes. “When I think about Habitat, I think about seeing families walk through their new homes for the first time. The joy they show is like no other.”

Newly arrived in Seattle, Aaron’s journalism career has taken him from his home in Spartanburg, South Carolina to Rockford, Illinois, San Antonio, Texas and Knoxville, Tennessee. He’s happy to be here in Seattle working with “…a team that takes news seriously.” He enjoys sharing the city’s great parks and the region’s hiking trails with his wife and two daughters.  Of course, there is the seafood, “Between oysters, clams, crab, and salmon I am in heaven here.”

In keeping with his joy of service, Aaron is passionate about children of color learning to swim, “Black kids drown at a really high rate compared to others.” His first job as a YMCA lifeguard showed him the value of water skills in saving lives. He also supports animal adoption because he’s seen “… how much they (rescued pets) can help an owner live a really full life, while saving theirs.”

The bottom line for Aaron Wright is community connection and storytelling.  He’s sure to bring that spirit to his emcee duties on June 2 and his partnership at the head table with keynote speaker Nomadland: Surviving America in the 21st Century author Jessica Bruder. If you haven’t registered yet, there’s still time – please do so here: Beyond the Build Luncheon Habitat SKC. We hope to see you there!