The cover story of Monday’s News and Observer was “Downtown Raleigh boom leaves less for affordable housing.”The headline stated clearly the challenge that faces our growing county – the exciting growth and prosperity is leaving behind some of our most vulnerable residents.
Much of the article focused on the loss of affordable rental units and the increase in land values. As Greg Warren of DHIC stated, “we are losing… more [affordable rental units] than we are gaining.” The discussion around rising land values focused on its effect on larger projects. Lost in the discussion was how those rising costs also contribute to putting homeownership out of reach. We’ve seen the number of families who are waiting and approved for our program double over the past couple of years, and we are trying to step up at Habitat Wake and double our production to meet that need.
Habitat for Humanity’s founder, Millard Fuller, was known to say on occasion that “what the poor need is not charity, it is capital.” We often talk about homeownership as being at the heart of the American dream – having a full stake in your community. For most low-income families, homeownership is the primary way in which wealth can be accumulated. Homeownership provides families with the leverage to begin to look beyond their current horizon and plan for not only their future, but their children’s future. In a county where it takes almost two and a half full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford an average 2-bedroom apartment, being able to do more than live paycheck to paycheck can be a challenge. Homeownership provides the opportunity to build.
For our founder, this ministry is about justice and comes from a deep wellspring of faith that teaches us that we are created by a God who challenges us to rethink just who our neighbors are. Thank you to all of those who continue to support Habitat Wake and the 42 families whose homes are being built this year. As we see the county grow and prosper there is a market tendency against the affordability of housing. However, we are poised to be a county that can show how to grow really well and grow for all of its citizens and not just for some. I encourage us to find creative ways for our county to expand opportunity for all of our neighbors.
 Green, Richard K., Gary D. Painter, and Michelle J. White, “Measuring the Benefits of Homeowning: Effects on Children Redux,” 2012.
 National Low Income Housing Coalition, “Out of Reach Report: 2013.”