Why we build | Habitat for Humanity

Safe, affordable housing is out of reach for far too many people around the world.

Every day, more families find themselves in a struggle to keep a decent roof over their heads. Caught in punishing cycles of unpredictable rent increases, overcrowded conditions, or lack of access to land and affordable financing, these families live with a constant burden of stress and fear.

Helping families leave that cycle behind is why we build. When a family can create a decent place to live that’s affordable, everything can change. And so much change is so desperately needed.

A housing affordability crisis in the U.S.

Nearly 13 percent of Americans live in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A family of four with an annual income of less than $24,858 is considered to be living below the poverty line.

One in five children in the U.S. lives in a family who resides in extremely poor conditions, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.

The homeownership rate for all ages reached a 50-year low in 2016, according to the Census Bureau, as rising property prices, high rents and stagnant pay put buying out of reach for many.

While renters’ median housing costs rose, in real terms, by 11 percent between 2001 and 2016, their incomes fell by two percent, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. The increases primarily affected those least able to afford it.

A worker earning the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25 needs to work 117 hours a week for 52 weeks — or nearly 3 full-time jobs — to afford a modest two-bedroom rental home and 94.5 hours per week — or 2.4 full time jobs — to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment, according to The National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Seventy-one percent of families with extremely low incomes are spending more than half of their income on rent and utilities, The National Low Income Housing Coalition has found. Due to a shortage of affordable and available housing in every state, many lower-income households spend more on rent than they can afford and sacrifice health care, food and other basic necessities.

Because many low-income households burn expensive heating fuels in older, inefficient homes, they carry a disproportionate energy burden — the share of annual household income used to pay annual energy bills. The average energy burden for low-income households is 8.2 percent — three times as high as other households, according to the Census Bureau.

Tremendous housing need around the world

The United Nations estimates that more than 10 million people worldwide die each year from conditions related to substandard housing.

One in 10 people lives on less than $1.90 a day, according to the World Bank.

More than 80 percent of the world’s population does not have legal documentation of their property rights.

As more of the world’s population moves from rural areas to cities, low-income families are the first to be evicted and pushed to the edge of cities into unplanned slums.

The World Bank predicts that 40 percent of the world’s population will need new housing and basic infrastructure in the next 14 years.

The difference a decent and affordable place to live can make

There is a strong correlation between improved housing and poverty reduction, according to the United Nations.

The house and neighborhood where one grows up has been shown to impact health and longevity.

Safe and stable housing, says the Foundation for Child Development, is essential to the healthy growth of children.

Better neighborhoods, says Economic Policy Review, are associated with better outcomes for homeowner children.

Affordable housing enables people to pay for other basic needs such as utilities, food and medical care.

Affordable housing also increases the amount families can put toward savings for the future.

Homeownership has been linked to a general willingness to work together with one’s neighbors to achieve a common goal, has been associated with a reduction of violent crimes in neighborhoods and has been found to spark greater civic participation, according to A Place to Call Home: The Social Dimension of Homeownership.

Center for Housing Policy research shows that a supportive and stable home environment can complement the efforts of educators, leading to better student achievement.

Children of homeowners are 25 percent more likely to graduate from high school and 116 percent more likely to graduate from college compared with families who do not own their homes, according to the Joint Center for Housing Studies.

How Habitat is making an impact

Habitat for Humanity knows that safe, decent and affordable shelter plays an absolutely critical role in helping struggling families find a new path forward.

Affordable homeownership fosters the skills and confidence they need to invest in themselves and their communities. The outcomes can be long-lasting and life-changing.

With your support, we have helped more than 13.2 million people obtain a safer place to sleep at night since our founding in 1976.

We work in many ways: new construction, repairs to existing homes, small loans for incremental building and home improvements, help establishing title and ownership to land, advocacy for better laws and systems, market development, and more.

Families partner with us to acquire the access, skills and financial education necessary for them to improve their living conditions and repay an affordable mortgage or loan. In doing so, they seize the opportunity and possibilities that decent, affordable housing represents.

Through shelter, we empower.

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