Habitat For Humanity:
A Hand Up, Not A Hand Out

Virtually everyone has heard of Habitat for Humanity but what do they really do? Through partnering with various groups, including the housing recipients themselves, they are chipping away at the most pressing of needs – that everyone deserves safe, decent, and affordable housing. The Habitat for Humanity International website says it best.

“No matter who we are or where we come from, we all deserve to have a decent life. We deserve to feel strength and stability day after day. We deserve to know we have the power to take care of ourselves and build our own future.”

The model is brilliantly designed to ensure that the involvement and commitment of the home recipients are at the core of the process. Potential Habitat homeowners have to meet stringent requirements. They must currently be living in inadequate housing, i.e. overcrowded, unsafe, unaffordable, or unsanitary. Partnering with Habitat is a prerequisite through homeowner education and 200+ hours of sweat equity by volunteering, often helping build the home of a future neighbor. Their ability to pay is analyzed just as any other homeowner requiring good credit and an adequate income to cover their mortgage.

Through the financial contributions of individuals, group donations, and housing sponsorships fueled by volunteer labor, the homeowners are able to repay for the homes built locally for $55,000 over 30 years at 0% interest. Mortgage payments range from $555 to $637 a month. This is usually below what they have been paying in rent often in substandard conditions. Locally, the annual mortgage payments contribute $750,000 to build more houses.

The Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity (AAHH) was the first NC affiliate in 1983, seven years after its founding in 1976 in Americus, Georgia, and a year before Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter embarked upon their 34 years of volunteering for a week with the Carter Work Project building almost 4,000 homes in 14 countries. Habitat International currently works in 70 countries helping more than 9.8 million people with improved living conditions.

Asheville Habitat has recently completed its 300th house and starts a house every three weeks in neighborhood settings, such as the 55-home Enka Hills Subdivision. By changing the lives of over 1,350 people directly, there are thousands more impacted indirectly through increased employment and educational opportunities once the uncertainty of substandard living conditions has been eliminated.

Not only do they build new homes, but the Neighborhood Revitalization Program repairs homes for lower income homeowners at an 80% discount of job costs, repaid over a five year period at a 0% interest rate.

The AAHH ReStore was voted #2 in the nation out of 780 Habitat ReStores in 2016, and Best Used Furniture Store locally. Items accepted for resale cover the gamut: furniture, housewares, books and music, building supplies including doors, windows, lighting and flooring, some of which may be bulk donations of new materials; appliances that are all tested and repaired, if needed, with a 30-day guarantee. Volunteers run the store and the income goes towards covering administrative costs and building programs.
Deconstruction fits in perfectly with Asheville’s commitment to reusing, recycling, and repurposing items. Individuals or builders have the Deconstruction team remove items or whole kitchens for resale at the ReStore. Leann Kelley notes of her remodel, “Habitat was the perfect solution to repurposing our old cabinets and appliances.”

When the spate of hurricanes hit, the Habitat International Disaster Corps stepped in. Since 1997, they have helped more than 230,000 families in 52 countries. Their immediate response is to assess damage and remove debris, and then help with community stabilization and long-term recovery.

Habitat for Humanity International is well respected. After the hurricanes, Habitat was one of the charities chosen to be a recipient of the $44 million raised on the Hand-In-Hand Telethon, as well as multiple $1 million+ donations from numerous corporations. Locally, the Warren Haynes Christmas Jam has raised over $2 million dollars. Even local breweries are teaming up for “The House that Beer Built” this November.

But volunteers are the lifeblood of Habitat. Many are core volunteers who work each week in the office, ReStore, or building homes. Even if you volunteer on a construction site once, you will get the bug yourself.

In the end what drives Habitat is the empowerment given to those most in need. They are building strength, stability and self-reliance on the foundation of a decent and affordable home. All of the homeowners are proactive, not passive – Investing, not receiving. They are seizing an opportunity, and – with a hand up – they are changing their own futures.

Peggy Crowe is a REALTOR© at Coldwell Banker King who is on the Women Build Advocacy Team for AAHH and donates a portion of each sale to the Women Build. For more information call AAHH at 828-251-5702.

Peggy Crowe
Written by Peggy Crowe