Good News - August 2023

COVER STORY 30 AUGUST 2023 Good News • South Florida Edition For 40 years, Habitat for Humanity of Broward has sought to put God’s love into action by building homes, communities and hope during times of need. Established in 1983 by members of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Lauderdale, Habitat Broward built some of its first homes for families displaced by Hurricane Andrew. Today they are on the front lines of the battle for affordable homeownership as Broward has become one of the most cost burdened housing markets in the nation, placing homeownership out of reach for 94 percent of families. “With the median priced home in Broward jumping to $585,000, a family has to be making well into six figures in order to purchase a home in our market,” said Nancy Robin, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Broward. “And while there are some rentals going up, legislation being passed and incentives going forward, that has not happened for homeownership. So right now, Habitat may be the one viable alternative working people have as a path to homeownership, and we see it in the numbers.” During the last enrollment period, Habitat Broward received 34,000 applications for the 60 homes currently in development. However, Thor Barraclough, chief programs officer for Habitat for Humanity of Broward, said “We’re growing to match the need, and those applicants didn’t go away empty handed. They also receive education on how to get into the housing market… Many apply again, and those families selected recognize the opportunity they’ve been given and work bloody hard for it.” History On a national level, Habitat for Humanity was founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller after visiting Koinonia Farm, a community farm outside of Americus, Georgia, founded by farmer and biblical scholar Clarence Jordan. Their concept of “partnership housing” centered on those in need of adequate shelter working side by side with volunteers to build decent, affordable houses at no profit. New homeowners’ house payments would be combined with no-interest loans provided by supporters and money earned by fundraising to create “The Fund for Humanity,” which would then be used to build more homes. That model continues today, and Habitat for Humanity now has 1,200 U.S. affiliates. Habitat Broward is listed among their top 40 most productive, with more than 700 homes built during its 40-year history. In 2017, Habitat Broward broke ground on their largest build ever: 76 homes at A Rick Case Habitat Community in Pompano Beach during a ceremony attended by Governor Rick Scott. The total project is estimated to cost over $18 million in funds raised and leveraged through partnerships. The organization recently celebrated the completion of 15 of those homes during a historic dedication ceremony in April, five more will be completed in September and the final 14 homes are expected to be finished by May 2024. “However, we’re not resting on our laurels,” said Barraclough. In fiscal year 2023, there are plans to break ground on 20 units in Fort Lauderdale, 13 units in Coral Springs and eight homes in North Lauderdale, while finishing seven homes in Deerfield Beach, “which points to how these cities have embraced the affordable homeownership movement,” he added. Robert Taylor, first vice chair and a former chairman of the board for Habitat Broward is president of Burdette Beckman, Inc. (BBI), which has built 23 Habitat homes over the past 12 years. Taylor said, “We're breaking ground in September on a 20-home village called BBI Village in Fort Lauderdale that will be the biggest one we’ve done with Habitat in one fell swoop.” BBI is underwriting the infrastructure for the development, which will be located near Mills Pond Park. Why is he so committed to the mission of Habitat for Humanity? “Being Christians ourselves, putting your faith in action is something my family has always believed in, and housing is such a critical issue, particularly in our county. Plus, it’s a beautiful model because people earn things. They're not just given them… Everybody we bring into Habitat finds it is such a compelling and powerful way to help. We all should give, but giving with a purpose and intentionality that really helps people and their families long term, that’s a beautiful thing, and that’s what habitat has found a way to do.” One homeowner’s journey “It has been amazing for my family,” said Theo Lyons. He and his wife are both employees of Broward County Schools and had three young children between the ages of seven and one when they applied for a Habitat home in 2017. “At the time, my wife was not working, so it was a lot for a single salary home with five people, and our rent just kept skyrocketing. We were caught up in the rental rat race and could no longer afford to rent, so we moved out with some friends of ours who were pastors and during the building process, my wife and children ended up going to stay with her parents.” Of the 7,000 applicants who applied, the Lyons were approved for the program and received one of the inaugural 12 homes in A Rick Case Habitat Community, where they have lived since 2019. “Since we’ve been in our home, my wife and I both completed bachelor’s degrees and we start masters programs in the fall. We know we wouldn’t be in the position we were to go back to school, but Habitat made that dream of homeownership a reality for us. It’s brought stability to our home, our marriage and our children. And we’re super grateful for having been participants in the program and for our sponsors: Robert Taylor and BBI.” Who gets a Habitat home? Most Habitat Homeowners are hard working families like the Lyons, often employed in teaching and education, healthcare or local government, who have been priced out of homeownership or face difficult family situations. Habitat for Humanity does not give away homes. In fact, Habitat Homeowners help build their homes and the homes of others, investing a minimum of 350 hours of sweat equity on construction sites. Eligible future homeowners must attend 12 months of financial and life-skills education classes, and they pay a manageable down payment on the home before assuming a low or no interest mortgage, subsidized by Habitat for Humanity of Broward with no closing costs. Habitat ensures affordable mortgages are kept to no more than 30 percent of the household gross income. To qualify as a future Habitat Homeowner, applicants must exhibit a real need, meet income requirements, pass background checks and receive a home visit. “The need is so great, but the families that qualify are ready,” said Robin. “The homeowners that are selected are extraordinary and their vision is so strong.” Barraclough added, “Their entrance also represents the whole family - four, five, six or seven family members, creating generational wealth.” Habitat families begin with vision boarding and education, including a Youth Empowerment Program that mirrors the adult curriculum future homeowners receive for lasting impact. The impact of Habitat homeownership A study conducted by the Jorge Perez Metropolitan Center at Florida International University found that Habitat Homeownership improved family health, education, quality of life and wealth creation while raising neighborhood home values, employment rates and the tax base. The study found that 93 percent of Habitat homeowners reported their household was healthier after moving in. Eighty-one percent of parents felt comfortable with their children playing outside. Sixty-five percent report their family is safer. Eighty-seven percent feel they have true stability and Fifty-three percent of children’s grades improved. After moving into their Habitat homes, 79 percent of Habitat homeowners said they feel relaxed and confident about their finances compared to 48 percent before. And 82 percent of Habitat homeowners said they are now able to make steps toward future goals, compared to 60 percent before. Habitat ownership not only builds family wealth, but it also increases neighborhood Habitat for Humanity of Broward Celebrates 40 Years Providing Affordable Housing Shelly Pond Good News Editor Lily Pardo, Board Chair, and Nancy L. Robin, CEO and Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity of Broward Photo credit: Taylor A. Smith, Blue Eye Images