Habitat for Humanity does not give people homes or rent to them. It sells them to families with a low-interest loan. Why is that an important part of the process? Habitat for Humanity of Greater Portland builds strength, stability and self-reliance through shelter. Habitat homeowners also invest hundreds of hours of sweat equity, working alongside volunteers in addition to paying an affordable mortgage and receiving financial education. This process not only provides families with an opportunity for affordable housing, but also fosters the skills and confidence they need to invest in themselves and their communities.

You are wrapping up a three-home build in Freeport and the next project will be eight homes in South Portland. In a historic housing crunch, during a precarious economic moment, why is the work Habitat does more important than ever? One of our Freeport homes is for a family of new Mainers who left their home country despite good careers, because they were not safe there. They had to live in a shelter for a while, waking the kids early because they had to be out during the day. They learned English, found jobs, and, like many applicants, rented a string of apartments that were often cramped, in poor condition or in an area that wasn’t safe for their children. When they found Habitat, they were running out of hope that their life here would improve. But today, that family is excited to enroll their kids in a school and know they can stay there. They will have enough space in their home and a small yard for the kids to play in. Best of all, they are beginning to dream again – about going back to school to qualify for better jobs, about giving back to their new community and about making their new house into a home.

Tell us more about the Critical Home Repair program, which launched in late 2019. It helps people fix up the homes they have. Why is that just as important as your new builds? Low-income owners may have inherited their home or are seniors living on fixed incomes who cannot afford repairs and are in jeopardy of being displaced or living in hazardous conditions. Our team makes repairs and the homeowner repays a portion of the cost based on their income. All Habitat labor is donated. This program greatly expands the number of families we can help and the ways in which we are addressing the shortage of safe, decent and affordable housing.

The Greater Portland Board of Realtors is a longtime fundraiser and source of volunteer work. What is behind Habitat for Humanity’s strategy to engage local business groups in housing issues? Peel back the layers of a Habitat house’s structure, and you will see multiple solutions to the complex problem of affordable housing. When businesses and nonprofits, governments and individuals come together to build a house, they are throwing a pebble into a pond. The ripples that will spread when they leave the job site are the commitments each has made to be part of the solution in other ways. When they go back to their jobs or their communities, they will approach affordable housing with a new understanding of the need and a stronger belief in our ability to find a solution if we work together.

 

 

 

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