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Building More than Houses

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Each February, we celebrate our Construction Services volunteers with an Appreciation Breakfast. This year nearly 80 volunteers and staff members gathered as we celebrated collective accomplishments, honored longevity, recognized significant hourly contributions, and talked about the future.

Here are a few highlights shared during the event:
• More than 50% of the total volunteer hours contributed to Asheville Habitat’s construction program in 2016, were contributed by 80 construction “core” volunteers! These folks volunteer on our jobsite at least one day each week.
• Collectively, construction cores provided 17,570 hours of volunteer service!
• 28 cores each contributed more than 250 hours of service last year. Each received a golden hammer pin.
• The highest hours earner was CJ Obara, with 641 hours!

Longevity awards recognize years of volunteer service:
• 5 years – Beth Greck and Buddy Tallant
• 10 years – Ross Akin, Alan Cutter, Joyce Davis, Lou Farquhar, Neil O’Sullivan, Ken Roth, Sharon Waugh, Jim Worley
• 15 years – Ray Ducharme, Bob Laveck
• 20 years – Ken and Carol Deal (pictured, R)

We celebrated staff milestones, too. John Meadows has been a Construction Supervisor for 10 years and Kenny Busch just reached the 15 year mark!

Director of Construction Services Paul Reeves noted that 2016 was a year of change, with multiple staffing changes and four different building sites. None the less, our staff and volunteers rose to the occasion and served the largest number of families to date. 44 Home Repair clients and 14 new homeowners in Buncombe County now have decent and affordable housing.

Looking forward, we’ll be moving to Arden in the early summer to begin a 21-house subdivision, and we’ll be building a Habitat house in McDowell County as part of the SECU Challenge to build or renovate 100 houses in 100 NC counties. Also, we will solidify plans to introduce multi-family housing on a 16-acre parcel in West Asheville that the City of Asheville is helping us secure.

Home Repair Supervisor Joel Johnson thanked his core volunteers, Lonnie Lief and Garland Walker, who have been volunteering consistently for 3 years. Home Repair is unlike new construction in that the scope of work varies from project to project and the jobsite often changes daily. It’s difficult to plan a volunteer calendar in advance, so we appreciate Lonnie and Garland’s flexibility and commitment to the growing Home Repair program.

We were also pleased to be joined by Jeff Staudinger (pictured below), the Community Development Director for the City of Asheville, who was able to put Habitat’s contributions into the larger affordable housing context. He expressed the City’s enthusiasm for Habitat’s upcoming higher density neighborhood in West Asheville (currently referred to as Cedar Hill). Staudinger also referenced statistics from the Bowen Report and reiterate the City’s commitment to creating new public/private partnerships, and continuing to work to remove barriers, increase density, and strengthen the relationship between housing and transportation. “Shelter is the foundation for everything else,” he noted. “And as Habitat volunteers, you are working directly on the affordable housing crisis.”

In closing remarks, Executive Director Andy Barnett reminded the audience, “You are volunteering regularly to build the kind of community you want to live in…you are the hearts, hands and voices of affordable housing. You embody our mission.”

Habitat volunteers build and repair houses – and they build community. They help families build strength, stability and self-reliance. If you would like to be part of the affordable housing solution, click here to learn about Habitat volunteer opportunities.

To see event photos, please click here.

 

Where Habitat Fits in the Movement for Racial Equity

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By Andy Barnett, Executive Director

Earlier this week, we observed the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. The holiday provides an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of Dr. King and to recommit to a vision of equity for our neighbors who face barriers due to intentionally discriminatory policies and structures of power. Dr. King saw a great deal of progress toward racial equity in his lifetime and we have seen more in the years since his death. But much remains to be done to realize the dream of a nation where everyone has the chance to live up to their potential regardless of where they start from and the obstacles in their path. Continuing this work is our challenge today.

Homeownership Disparity; Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2011-2015 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates

One of the places where we haven’t seen progress toward racial equity, where, in fact we see a widening gap between whites and people of color is in household wealth. In 1963, the disparity in median family wealth was about $40,000; white households now have a median net worth $123,000 higher than African American families according to a report by the Urban Institute. This means that white families are much more able to weather financial hardships, take advantage of education and career opportunities, and participate in a virtuous cycle where the wealth attainment of one generation becomes the platform for the next. Families of color are much less likely to see these benefits.

A number of factors contribute to the widening gap in wealth including income, employment, family wealth, and education attainment. But, the largest single factor is homeownership—accounting for more than 25% of the disparity according to a Brandeis study.  White households are more likely to own homes. In Buncombe County, 72% of white households own their home while fewer than half of households of color are homeowners. This level of disparity in homeownership is consistent with national homeownership gap. Not only are households of color less likely to own homes, they also build equity more slowly (and lose it more quickly) than white households.

Home Ownership Loan Corporation “redlining” map of Asheville

This disparity is the result of intentional real estate and mortgage lending practices.  Beginning in the 1930’s, federal underwriting policy established lending risk based on geography.  Communities of color were identified as having a greater risk of default. As a result, these “redlined” areas were largely excluded from the post-war housing boom in housing development finance. Across the country new developments legally excluded Black and Latino buyers through restrictive covenants, and at the same time, neighborhoods of color declined due to lack of capital investment.

This pattern of lending created, in effect, two housing markets. One that rapidly appreciated in value and was restricted to whites, and another for people of color where values and conditions stagnated or declined. Overtime the deteriorating conditions in these disinvested neighborhoods “proved” that race-based lending practices were justified and these neighbors were blamed for the poor conditions rather than recognized as victims of discriminatory practices. Even after housing discrimination based on race was outlawed, “blight” and a “blame the victim” culture made it easy to justify redevelopment and displacement. Unfortunately, two generations of households have missed out on wealth building through a period of historic home value appreciation.

This is where Habitat’s work enters the story. We are a builder and a bank. Our programs simultaneously address geographic disinvestment and create a path to successful homeownership. Habitat develops housing in neighborhoods that other developers might reject, but where opportunities exist for a good quality of life for homeowners. Depending on the market, Habitat’s investment can boost a stagnating market or build long term economic integration in a “hot” market. By financing and assisting repairs for existing homeowners, Habitat preserves the housing stock and adds value to existing neighborhoods. Habitat lends to first time buyers and finances repairs for existing owners that other lenders have determined are too “risky”. Through careful underwriting, extensive education, a focus on partnership with the borrower, and a commitment to affordable mortgage terms, Habitat successfully extends homeownerships to households with incomes well below what it would take to qualify for a conventional mortgage. Since 2010, 45% of those new homeowners were households of color.

Habitat creates a way for households facing economic barriers to achieve homeownership and begin to close the wealth gap, but we can’t do it alone. To achieve equity in rates of homeownership nearly 3,000 additional households of color in Buncombe County will need the opportunity to become homeowners. To achieve this scale, we will need many more lenders to adopt policies that help households of color overcome historical barriers to mortgage loans. We need to grow housing and financial counseling opportunities to help aspiring homebuyers become “mortgage ready”. We need more affordable rental options and tenant advocacy so that renters have the stability needed to save and prepare for future ownership. Finally, we need home repair and foreclosure prevention assistance to help existing homeowners to remain at home. In short, it will take everyone committing to give our time, our financial support, and our voices to advance the dream of equality of opportunity for all our neighbors regardless of race.

P.S. – On MLK Day, a group of Habitat staff members and volunteers watched this 30 minute film together to gain a better understanding of the complex roots of today’s racial inequity in housing. I encourage you to make the time to watch it.

 

 

 

 

 

A Delightful Duo: Lifelong Friends Provide Service to the ReStore

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By Kristen Keefer

Carolyn McDonald and Jo Harvey, friends since childhood, meet every Tuesday to volunteer at the ReStore. The duo spends their time alongside core volunteer Susan Diehn at the checkout-counter. “Susan is great; she really helped me learn the ropes,” remarked Carolyn who has been volunteering for over a year and recruited Jo to begin volunteering this past June. In regards to bringing Jo on-board Carolyn said, “Jo knew I wouldn’t lead her astray, we’ve been friends forever.” Jo agreed: “I jumped right in at the ReStore and really enjoyed it!”

Carolyn initially became acquainted with Habitat through the Home Repair program. Our repair team completed much-needed repairs on her home’s roof, and electrical and plumbing systems. As part of her home repair client agreement, she needed to complete sweat equity hours, and she chose to complete them at the ReStore.

After completing the required volunteer hours, Carolyn decided she wanted to continue her service. She explained, “I love it here. Everyone is just awesome and I look forward to coming in!” She expressed her appreciation for the ReStore’s Volunteer Coordinator Carrie Burgin, saying “Carrie is amazing; she works with my schedule and is a very caring person.”

Both Carolyn and Jo enjoy working alongside other Habitat volunteers and staff, and they appreciate what Habitat does for the community. “It is just amazing, all the people Habitat helps, all the good that they do,” remarked Jo. A longtime fan of Habitat’s work, she first became acquainted with Habitat’s mission through her grandchildren who have spent time volunteering on Habitat construction sites.

The women dedicate their time outside of Habitat to helping others as well. On the weekends, Carolyn is a Medical Technician at North Ridge Assisted Living. And, throughout the week Jo helps care for a member of her community by transporting him to and from adult day care, as well as getting him breakfast in the mornings and making him home cooked meals in the evening.

Lifelong friends Jo and Carolyn are dedicated to service at the ReStore and in the community. Their story exhibits the value of a strong friendship, and demonstrates how sharing a new opportunity with a friend can be very special. We’re grateful that Carolyn chose to continue her service at the ReStore, and that she brought Jo on-board, too!

Photo (from L to R): Susan, Carrie, Carolyn and Jo

It’s March Madness Time!

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March Madness is almost here, but for Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity that means an influx of college students spending their spring break volunteering rather than heating up the basketball courts. Each group brings 12-14 volunteers, funds, and a surge of energy that matches any overtime game.

This year we are hosting the following three Habitat for Humanity Collegiate Challenge groups, as well as a high school team from Michigan.

Construction Services Volunteer Coordinator Stephanie Wallace noted, “We are thrilled to welcome three Collegiate Challenge teams AND a high school group this year. This is a great mix of old and new with Villanova and Battle Creek Academy joining us for the first time, while Lesley and Ramapo are returning for the 5th time!”

Lesley University student Audrey remarked, “Working with Habitat has been one of those experiences where you gain just as much as you give…One of the Core volunteers said something that stuck with me: ‘The people that do service are the type of people who I’d like to have as either close friends or neighbors’.’”

The groups are housed at Blue Ridge Assembly in Black Mountain, allowing them to enjoy the beauty of the mountains with access to hiking trails nearby. Each group will participate in a dinner with Habitat partner families who are in-process, allowing the volunteers an opportunity to get to know the people they are helping through their volunteer labor.

Past participant Victoria from Ramapo College, offered this reflection at the end of her alternative spring break with Asheville Habitat: “I think I really found myself by helping others, which is why when the partner families thank us, I just really wanted to thank them because without these opportunities to give back my life would be extremely different. Service has helped me find my passion and purpose in life and I’m so grateful for that.”

If you’d like to participate in some way (think: donate meals), please contact Stephanie at 828.210.9383 or swallace@ashevillehabitat.org.

Helping People Live Better in the Home They Already Own

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Not everyone needs a new home; some just need help repairing the home they already own.
Meet Abdul Ahmad, one of our Home Repair Clients

Written by Pat Bacon

Abdul Ahmad’s gently creviced face, framed in cropped shiny white hair, is equally as inviting as his bright yellow house where he has resided for the past twenty-two years. “Many people from the Caribbean like bright colors and now I see four other houses in the Shiloh community that people have painted yellow!” Originally from Barbados where life is sophisticated yet casual, warm and friendly, he and his wife, the late Betty Ahmad, were married in New York. When she wanted to move back home to Asheville to help care for her ailing mother, they rented this (now yellow) house and soon thereafter purchased it and made it their permanent home.

Abdul resoundingly endorses life in the Shiloh community and he quickly volunteers that he knows and likes all of his neighbors, and his neighbors know and like him. As he and I greeted each other on his front lawn, neighbors passed by waving their hands and tooting their horns, acknowledging Abdul. He waved and smiled back, the feelings mutual. “Shiloh reminds me of Barbados where days are sun-filled and the nights are balmy. There is nothing like being around friendly, caring folks who greet you and shake your hand and help each other. Shiloh is near almost everything – shops, stores, cleaners, restaurants, everything. There is no better place to live.”

Like the outside, the inside of his house is bright, but it is a subtle brightness. It is also open – open because the living room, dining room and kitchen all easily flow together, reminiscent of gentle island life. It’s obvious that the dining room is the focal point of the house. A round table and comfortable chairs in the middle of the house make it ideal for all kinds of gatherings and the television has been placed high enough on the wall so that all can see the important sporting events. The cream-colored walls and flowing cream-colored curtains encourage the sunlight to stream in and fill the space. There are remnants of Betty’s plants in front of the windows; Abdul readily admits that caring for plants is not his strong suite. A bathroom and two bedrooms complete this cozy, compact home.

Upon arriving in Asheville many years ago and before getting a full-time job, Abdul fondly remembers volunteering on two Habitat houses. Thus it was natural for him to turn to Habitat for help when he learned about the repair program. With his modest retirement income derived from working with the City of Asheville and other private companies along the way, there was no budget for repair work.

Because of Habitat’s affordable home repair program, Abdul now enjoys a much-needed new roof, a walk-in shower, railing for his steps and the fresh bright yellow paint job. Abdul feels safer and he is renewed by the new look of his home. “It feels good to have these things finally done and at such a good price. I tell people about Habitat all the time. I even brought someone to the Habitat Office to pick up an application.”

Abdul has three adult children and two grandchildren who visit him, and he in turn visits them. He celebrates that his house is more inviting now. Thoughts of past gatherings, particularly around Christmas and Thanksgiving, bring a big ready smile to his face. These days it gives Abdul pleasure to help others; he often drives neighbors and friends to assorted destinations. Abdul, an avid reader, enjoys reading about current world events and he admits that he’d really like to write short stories. He’s promised to share them when he does.

If you or someone you know is interested in our Home Repair program, click here to learn more.

 

Home Repair Program Makes One Shiloh Resident Dance with Joy

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Written by Pat Bacon, Habitat’s Family Support Specialist

Eugene (Gene) Rone’s mother died in 1929, just thirteen days after he became a year old. On her death bed, his mother asked his seventeen year old sister, Willie Mae, to take care of him; and she did. Willie Mae also taught him to care for himself and to seek a good life. As a teenager, he cooked, washed and ironed his own clothes, cleaned house, went to school and worked a part time job. He earned $1.00 a week and every week he gave his dad fifty cents. Later he met and became “family” with a Cuban family that owned a grocery store. He started working for the family at $3.00 a week and when his income increased, so did his dad’s – “$1.50 a week.” Gene said that along the way he grew tired of “lamp light,” especially when he was entertaining friends, so he saved his money and before long and much to his and his family’s pleasure,  he was able to have electricity and a telephone installed in the family home.

After graduating from Stephens Lee High School in 1949, Gene started doing domestic work and in 1953 he married his sweetheart, Mary, who at that time lived in the Shiloh Community. From 1954-1956 he served in the Army, barely missing a stint in Vietnam. Upon his return to Asheville, fifty-eight years ago, he and Mary purchased their home in the Shiloh Community for what was then the colossal sum of $4,500.

The Rone house is modest by conventional standards – two bedrooms, one bath. But it is rich because of a unique nuance, wonderful pictures and a cadre of mementos from many years of special occasions, family and community events which adorn all the walls, nooks and crannies – including ballroom dances with Mary who died in 1993. On a wall in the living room is a smiling picture of Mary and a framed poem dedicated to her – lit by an eternal candle flame.

Gene indicating damage near a windowGene is very proud of his community and he knows everybody on his street and everybody knows him. They all take a lot of pride in their homes and their yards. When Gene noted that his house needed painting, downspouts and gutters, he learned from a neighbor who happened to be a Habitat volunteer, about Habitat’s Home Repair program. Gene obtained and completed an application and as we say, the rest is history. Habitat’s Joel Johnson assessed the work and made the needed arrangements to get it done.

Habitat did a variety of repair work including servicing the oil furnace; scraping and painting exterior windows, doors, and trim; replacing rotten window trim and broken siding; re-routing water runoff from downspouts away from the house; replacing missing gable vent trim and installing a new gutter.

Gene is very grateful to Habitat for repairing his cherished home. He readily admits that it would have been very difficult if not impossible, to afford the work on his retirement income. He said that “these days folks charge an arm and a leg for anything that they do for you. Folks like me need organizations like Habitat.”

Gene has wonderful recall of the past and a positive outlook for the future. He remembers riding street cars at six cents a pop and cutting wood for the kitchen stove. These days he enjoys the good feeling he gets from driving his 1995 white, convertible mustang and entertaining family and friends. He speaks readily about what it means to live a full, rich life with no regrets. He smiles and says, “I’m still dancing with Mary!”

Help for the Helpers

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Marion and Thelma Scott are delightful. They’re the kind of folks who make good neighbors and enhance neighborhoods. They moved to Asheville in 1995 after having lived in Norwalk, Connecticut for thirty-six years. In Connecticut Thelma was an accountant and Marion’s last work was with a cable company (where one of their three sons now works). Born in North Carolina, it was Thelma’s hope to move back to the state to be near family, particularly her mother. Upon retirement Thelma’s hope became reality, and Thelma and Marion moved to Asheville, twelve years before her beloved mother’s death. And though her mother has passed, family remains nearby as Thelma’s sister currently lives across the street.

The Scotts live in a well-kept house on a quiet, but well-traveled street in south Asheville. They are always mindful and attentive to the maintenance and care needed for their house and their yard. To the pleasure of their neighbors, the Scotts immediately took an interest in the people who lived around them. They particularly began to give attention to their aging neighbors by driving them to appointments, helping them to maintain their yards and doing other things to make their lives easier.

At one time it got to the point where Marion did not have to announce himself when he was entering one neighbor’s yard, and then when he wanted to borrow a certain tool, the neighbor said that he no longer needed to ask even for it. The neighbor soon let it be known that the tool seemed to belong more to Marion than to him. Before long the neighbor outright gave Marion the tool. Being the upright, responsible man that he is, Marion used it for the upkeep of both yards, until the neighbor’s death.

As mentioned earlier, the Scotts are attentive to their home and its ongoing maintenance needs. After following the maintenance schedule prescribed by a heating and air company for their entire tenure in the house, the heating system was not working properly. They had called the service provider several times, and each time the company employee came out to repair the furnace. Finally, the company employee surmised that the entire system needed to be replaced because it could no longer be repaired. The Scotts proceeded to get estimates for a new heating system and the cheapest one that they could find was $7,900.  This was an impossible amount because of their fixed income. And while the furnace was the major problem, the Scotts also noticed some other needs. The insulation underneath the living room floor had fallen away. There were places in their living room that the Scotts could not reach to paint. A wall was cracked and it needed to be repaired and painted. And finally the crawl space needed to be covered to prevent dust and dirt from finding its way into the living room.

It was time for the helpers to seek help of their own. Marion and Thelma had heard about the Habitat home repair program on radio station WRES and as directed, they phoned for a home repair application. Upon completing the application, they met with Habitat’s Family Selection Coordinator and he forwarded the application to the Home Repair Supervisor (Joel Johnson) who visited the Scott home to do an assessment.

Joel determined that the requested work was doable and he proceeded to get another heating company to look at the furnace. That assessment showed that the furnace was still good and it could be repaired at a reasonable cost.

Mr. and Mrs. Scott breathed a sigh of relief after Joel’s visit. The furnace has been repaired. The other repairs have also been completed and the Scotts are look forward to having their three sons, six grandchildren and all the rest of their family in their home for Christmas. Thelma said “It just wouldn’t do for my grandbabies to be cold.”

When asked about their experience with Habitat, Thelma and Marion were very complimentary. “We are grateful for the positive interaction with Habitat staff. We appreciate the professionalism exhibited by the workers and we could not be happier about the cost and terms of repayment.”

If you’d like to learn more about our Home Repair program services and qualifications, please click here.

Written by Pat Bacon, Family Support Specialist

Enjoy a Special Evening at the Biltmore Estate to help Habitat

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Save the Date – Friday, October 10th

Asheville Area Habitat is thrilled to be the beneficiary of the 2014 Annual Biltmore Benefit, co-hosted by Colton Groome and Company. The event will take place on the evening of Friday, October 10th and funds raised will support our Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative Home Repair Program in the Shiloh Community in South Asheville.

Guests will begin the evening at the Statue of Diana at Biltmore for an outdoor reception overlooking Biltmore House and the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, an elegant four-course dinner prepared by Estate chefs, dancing… and an exciting surprise at the close of the event.

Tickets are on sale now. Purchase or pledge your Sponsorship soon before this year’s event sells out. If you would like to receive information, please call 828-225-1218 and leave your name, and mailing or email address and event information will be sent to you soon.

 

 

 

Habitat Welcomes New Home Repair Manager

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We are pleased to welcome Hugh Lipham as Home Repair Manager. In this new position, Lipham will coordinate the day-to-day Construction Services operations of the Home Repair program including: inspection, scope of work, pricing, scheduling, project planning, subcontractor coordination and acceptance.

Lipham comes to Habitat from The Housing Assistance Corporation in Hendersonville, where he worked as Director of Residential Development for more than seven years. Having managed affordable single-family and multi-family housing development activities for that agency, he brings a wealth of experience in affordable housing. Prior, Hugh served as a field coordinator of the very highly regarded emergency home repair program at The Appalachia Service Project. Hugh is also a licensed general contractor in North Carolina and has spent time in management with a family-owned business.

Asheville Area Habitat was one of the first Habitat affiliates to introduce Neighborhood Revitalization (Home Repair) as an extension of its new house construction program in 2009. This expansion of housing services was part of Asheville Habitat’s Building a Way Home campaign to triple the number of families served by 2015. Since 2010, the affiliate has completed more than 70 home repair projects in Buncombe County, ranging in scope from repairing walkways and improving accessibility, to replacing roofs and upgrading heating systems.

Bringing significant knowledge and experience, Lipham is a welcome addition to AAHH as the affiliate works to expand its home repair program in the coming years.

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