Habitat for Humanity International: Building Strength, Stability, and Self-Sufficiency

Keywords: 
Habitat for Humanity
Houses and Homes
Poverty
Volunteering
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit Christian organization that brings families, volunteers and resources together to build simple, decent, and affordable housing in low-income areas. Houses are sold at no profit and owners provide hard work, a down payment, and ongoing interest-free payments.

 

Authored by Jordan Almos

Definition 

Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit Christian organization that partners with future and current homeowners to build safe, decent, and affordable homes for working families.  The affiliate, volunteers, and future homeowners work together through the homeownership process.  Homes are sold at no profit, meaning the homeowner does not pay additional fees.  The homeowners only pays what it costs to build the home.  Habitat for Humanity International hopes to expand their model to create communities in which everyone has a safe, decent, affordable home.   

In 1991 Habitat for Humanity launched the concept of the ReStore in Winnipeg, Canada.  The concept expanded to the US and the first ReStore opened in 1992 in Austin, Texas.  Each ReStore is associated with the each local affiliate.  ReStores accept donations from the community and home improvement stores then resells the items to the public at a discounted.  The profit from the ReStore supports the local affiliate.  In addition to ReStores, Habitat for Humanity International continues to expand their model through education, revitalizing neighborhoods, and microfinance. 

Habitat for Humanity International is launching rethinkhabitat.org in January 2019.  This site will host how the organization moves forward to meet the needs of communities across the world.  In addition, Habitat for Humanity built K-12 curriculum to educate and cultivate potential volunteers at a young age.  Home renovation is another way the organization serves families.  The program seeks to keep families in their homes by supporting exterior and/or interior home improvements.   

The Neighborhood Revitalization program serves with neighborhood residents and community partners to address the various elements that impact the quality of life which includes: health care, safety, and economic development.  The organization serves the entire community to improve the quality of life as not only does Habitat for Humanity build homes but also supports families and communities to thrive.  Another new program, the Terilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, works within the housing market system.  In 2016, the Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter launched with their mission to expand affordable housing markets by working with local firms, expanding innovative and client responsive services, products and financing so families can improve their shelter more effectively and efficiently.   

According to Habitat for Humanity International, The Terwilliger Center seeks to advance the knowledge of housing markets through research, and creating publications and resources for communities to utilize.  One focus of the Tewilliger Center is creating inclusive financing through the MicroBuild Funding.  The MicroBuild Fund is a housing-focused microfinance investment to support working families.  The funds provide small loans to families to build safe, decent, durable homes that aligns with their financial capacity.  According to Habitat for Humanity International, as of June 30, 2017, the MicroBuild Fund has approved $90 million across 49 institutions in 28 countries, of which $74.3 million has already been disbursed to 42 institutions in 25 countries.  In addition to the MicroBuild Fund, another focus includes the housing market systems and entrepreneurship.  The Terwilliger Center strives to influence markets to better meet working families’ needs for housing products and services by examining the housing market and to identify gaps that prevent families from accessing and utilizing affordable construction solutions (Habitat for Humanity International).   

 

Historic Roots 

The idea for Habitat for Humanity originated at Koinonia Farm, a small Christian farming community located outside of Americus, Georgia.  Clarence Jordan, Koinonia Farms’ founder, and Millard Fuller collaborated to create the idea of “partnership housing.”  The idea of “partnership housing” allows working families to serve with volunteers to build a safe, decent, affordable homes.   

The families in the homeownership program are required to help build their home and others.  In addition, the families are required to serve with other community organizations and attend educational workshops to prepare them as homeowners.  The mortgage payments and money from community funders is placed in the organization’s revolving fund. The economic philosophy of Habitat for Humanity is taken directly from the Bible (Exodus 22:25) which states that “someone lending money to the poor should not act as a creditor and charge interest.”  From the initial idea of “partnership housing”, Millard Fuller and Linda Fuller, Millard’s wife, expanded the idea to create Habitat for Humanity International.  Habitat for Humanity launched worldwide in 1973 when Fuller moved his family to Africa to test the project outside the United States.  

 

Importance 

Habitat for Humanity utilizes community, national, and global resources to provide safe, decent and affordable homes to working families. The need for housing in the U.S. is at an all-time high, with close to thirty million households facing problems such as overcrowded homes, inadequate physical necessities (like running water), and paying too much of their income on mortgages and associated costs.  These issues cause housing instability which may create stress, depression, and homelessness for families.  In 2014, low income families with a high housing cost burden had less than $500 a month to spend on food, healthcare, clothing, etc.  As a result, this affects children’s readiness to learn.  Affordable housing allows working families to support their child’s development.   

 

Ties to the Philanthropic Sector 

Habitat for Humanity homes are sold with no profit received.  The homes are built through volunteer labor and donated resources and money from the community.  Homeowners must meet three qualifications: willingness to partner, ability to pay, and have a need for decent, affordable, and safe housing.  Each family must provide a down payment and continue making mortgage payments on their home; it is not a charity program.  Funding for Habitat for Humanity comes from home payments, donations from individuals, families, corporations, foundations, and the government.  

Habitat for Humanity cultivates volunteers and donors at a young age.  They have youth programs that engage children as young as five.  These programs include education about how housing matters, letter campaigns, and a service learning guide.  The organization continues to foster volunteers in higher education through collegiate challenge then as young professionals.  The AmeriCorps experience allows volunteers to engage with their community through direct and indirect service.   Habitat for Humanity hosts hundreds of AmeriCorps members every year.  Disaster Corps are highly skilled trained professionals that support communities impacted by natural disasters.  The volunteers support various areas when responding to disasters which include volunteer coordination, resource logistics, development, legal services, and construction.   

 

Key Related Ideas 

  • Habitat for Humanity creates community by bringing neighborhoods together to decrease substandard housing. 

  • Habitat for Humanity wants all individuals to have an opportunity for fair housing. 

  • Homeownership and self-sufficiency are the main values that Habitat strives to instill. 

  • Families build their homes and other families’ through sweat equity. 

  • Investing in affordable housing produces better outcomes for children. 

  • Homeowners and community members have the opportunity to instill volunteerism in their communities by serving with Habitat for Humanity. 

 

Important People Related to the Topic 

  • Jimmy Carter, thirty-ninth president of the United States, is the most visible and well-known spokesperson for Habitat for Humanity International. He is deeply committed to the social welfare of individuals and has worked to eliminate poverty around the world. Carter’s involvement with Habitat for Humanity began in 1984 when he led a work group to renovate a building in New York City, providing safe housing for nineteen different families; this began the Jimmy Carter Work Project, now an annual event. Each year Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, devote a week of their time to build homes and raise awareness of the vital need for affordable housing around the world. 

  • Linda Fuller is co-founder of Habitat for Humanity International, and wife of founder and president Millard Fuller. Linda and Millard have received the Harry S. Truman Public Service Award and she has also received the Mark O. Hatfield Leadership Award. Linda has created the program WATCH (Women Accepting the Challenge of Housing) in order to increase the participation of women building homes. With the program, at least one home is built annually by women only. 

  • Millard Fuller is the president and founder of Habitat for Humanity International. The organization has developed into a worldwide Christian housing organization which strives to demonstrate God’s love through providing housing for those in need in more than 3,000 U.S. cities and eighty-two countries. 

 

Related Nonprofit Organizations 

  • AND Architecture + Community Planning starts with the community.  The organization utilizes architecture design, planning, and engagement services to support underserved communities by prioritizing the neighborhood, organizational and needs first.  All projects are co-designed with stakeholders within the community.  AND strives to advocate and educate for spatial equality that supports justice and human dignity.   
  • Habitat for Humanity International offers information about the organization's programs, history, events, access to local affiliates and more. The site also provides stories and up-to-date information about the organization. 
  • How Housing Matters is a resource for providing information and research regarding the importance of housing and the impacts on families and communities.  In 2008 the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation funded research to demonstrate how quality, affordable housing strengthen and supports families and communities.  In partnership with the Urban Institute, How Housing Matter is a platform for practitioners, policymakers, and researchers to learn and work across fields to improve individual and community outcomes.   
  • The National Low Income Housing Coalition strives to provide education and advocacy regarding America's affordable housing crisis 

 

Reflection Questions: 

How can you find out more about the need in your community for safe, decent, affordable housing? 

What can a young person do to address the need?

 

Bibliography 

  • Baggett, Jerome. 2000. Habitat for Humanity: Building Private Homes, Building Public Religion. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 
  • Brennan, Maya, and Erika Poething. “High-Return Investments for America’s Children.” How Housing Matters. 
  • Gaitán, Veronica. “The Central Importance of Housing.” How Housing Matters. 
  • Habitat for Humanity International. “About the Terwilliger Center. 
  • Habitat for Humanity International website

This briefing paper was authored by a student taking a philanthropic studies course at The Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.