MOST NONPROFITS THAT CONSTRUCT AFFORDABLE housing aren't donor magnets like The Salvation Army or United Way. So Pulte Homes' $1 million pledge to Mercy Housing last October was, if anything, noteworthy.
“Pulte recognized that people with lesser means have the right to decent housing,” explains Sister Lillian Murphy, Mercy Housing's president and CEO. It didn't hurt, either, that Roger Pastore, who retired last summer as Pulte Mortgage's president, sat on Mercy's board, or that the organization last year received a Hearthstone Award. “There were a lot of builders in that audience, Pulte included,” recalls Jim Pugash, Hearthstone's CEO, who is on Mercy's advisory board.
Denver-based Mercy Housing, which celebrates its 25th anniversary later this year, will build around 1,450 housing units in the fiscal year that ends June 30, 2006, during which it will also complete its 17,000th unit overall. Three-quarters of Mercy's housing units are rentals, and 70 percent of its buyers are families with average annual incomes of $16,500. Chuck Wehrwein, Mercy's senior vice president of real estate investments, and Murphy say Mercy will use Pulte's donation to upgrade internal systems and possibly to build more for-sale homes. Some funds might also go toward managing and maintaining more than 200 buildings, whose costs aren't included in Mercy's $32 million annual budget. “We make a 50-year commitment to these properties, but it's hard to find the money we need to pay for infrastructure,” says Murphy.
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