Multiple messages were carried by the sound of hammers pounding in Charlotte, North Carolina.
On the surface, approximately 1,000 volunteers joined forces to help the local Habitat affiliate build The Meadows at Plato Price, a 39-home project on a site that was once occupied by an African-American school that closed as part of the city’s desegregation plan in 1966.
It was the global organization’s 37th Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project and the first one since the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city was selected as the site of this year’s event because of the work being done by Habitat for Humanity of the Charlotte Region, which is celebrating its 40th anniversary.
A larger message was also being shared: Affordable housing is an issue across the country.
“Charlotte is also emblematic of the affordable housing crisis,” says Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The West Coast was always difficult or Northern Virginia or New York City, but historically Charlotte was one of the most affordable places in the country to build. Habitat could build lots of houses quite inexpensively. Prices here virtually doubled in the last five years. We wanted to come to Charlotte to put a spotlight on the affordability crisis.”
Like most other builders and developers, Habitat for Humanity has been hit by the surging costs of land, building materials, and skilled trades that bolster the efforts of the group’s renowned volunteers.
These costs along with the large number of families that are struggling to afford housing is forcing the organization to be stronger advocates and be more creative with financing, according to Reckford.
“The math for a good-hearted builder just doesn’t work,” he says. “With interest rates up, that makes the math even tougher so like every other builder we are trying to figure out how we can still build more affordable housing. Particularly, the shortage in our country is at the affordable and workforce levels.”
Four years ago, Habitat launched an advocacy campaign called “Cost of Home,” which has more than 400 communities engaged at the local, state, and federal levels to enact better housing policies. Overall, Habitat has led efforts that have resulted in more than 300 policy changes across the country, Reckford says.
Examples include a zoning change in Minneapolis that allows for some low-density projects in neighborhoods that were historically limited to single-family housing. Habitat was also involved in an effort that led to new rules to allow for accessory dwelling units to be built across Portland, Oregon.
Habitat for Humanity ranked No. 28 on the 2023 Builder 100 list.
The organization’s building efforts have focused on affordable homeownership, but its policy view is that more housing of all types is needed, according to Reckford, who has led Habitat since 2005.
It launched this year’s work project Oct. 1, which was Jimmy Carter’s 99th birthday. It was the first year that the Carters did not participate in the event.
“We know the best way to continue their extraordinary legacy is to keep the building going,” Reckford says.
The Charlotte event was hosted by country music superstars and longtime supporters Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood.
The Carter Work Project is supported by more than 75 sponsors, including the project’s Diamond sponsors—Bank of America, Lowe’s, and Wells Fargo—each of which committed at least $1 million in funding, and Platinum sponsors—the city of Charlotte, MasterBrand, Mecklenburg County government, and U.S. Bank, each of which donated $500,000 toward the project.
Several of the organization’s affiliates also shared their own news in early October.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles announced the launch of its 2023 Home Builders Blitz, a two-week construction project aimed at building affordable homes in Lancaster. A partnership with Clark Construction, Turner Construction, and The Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the project is an integral part of Habitat’s expansion into the Antelope Valley. Three homes will be built during this accelerated build, with an additional five affordable homes being built on the parcel.
The development serves as a launch point for a multiyear commitment to this community, where Habitat LA plans to develop more than 170 additional affordable homes over the next five years.
In Texas, the Austin Habit for Humanity shared a new analysis that shows the region’s “federally generated income limits skyrocketed at unprecedented levels in the past five years.”
These limits escalated 37% since 2018, the highest jump ever recorded in the greater Austin area’s history. This means people making substantially higher incomes now qualify to purchase one of the organization’s homes, according to the chapter.
While median family income has increased rapidly, the cost to own and rent a home climbed even more dramatically, notes the group.
A key change in the past few years is the number of homes Austin Habitat is building. Soaring land prices forced the nonprofit to begin building townhomes and condominiums in addition to the single-family homes it has historically built.
Now, nearly 50 homes are anticipated to be available for purchase this year, and more than 100 additional homes will be built in the next five years. Previously, the nonprofit was building 10 to 15 homes annually. Future homes are a mix of townhomes, condominiums, and single-family homes, offering buyers a range of options based on lifestyle and location preferences.