Habitat Announces Habitat Housing Initiative

From Rita Price, the Columbus Dispatch 

Habitat for Humanity plans to expand reach

COLUMBUS, OHIO / OCTOBER 2017: Habitat for Humanity-MidOhio kicked off a new initiative that aims to more than triple the number of central Ohio families the housing agency can help.

“This is different from the average red-thermometer campaign,” said E.J. Thomas, president and CEO of the local Habitat affiliate. “We’re going to go from being able to serve about 40 families a year, to at least 140 families a year.”

Habitat officials, corporate donors and other supporters gathered Friday at a new Habitat-built home in the Linden area to announce the five-year, $5.6 million initiative, which already has raised more than $3 million.

The plan calls for 158 new projects in Linden, 94 on the South Side, 63 in Newark and some 400 repair projects. Officials also expect to open two new ReStores — Habitat’s nonprofit home-improvement stores and donation centers — bringing the total to four.

Thomas said the growth likely will make MidOhio one of the nation’s top five Habitat affiliates.

“Housing is a vaccine,” he said. “If you don’t get the housing right, then all the other dollars you’re spending aren’t going to be nearly as effective.”

Advocates for the poor say the affordable-housing shortfall is at a crisis point in Franklin County, with some 54,000 low-income families in Columbus spending more than half their monthly incomes on rent. The Dispatch reported on the area’s widening income gap earlier this year in its Dividing Lines series on economic inequality.

Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther told the Habitat crowd that too many residents in the fast-growing city are struggling.

“Here in Linden, and in neighborhoods throughout our city, there is a disconnect,” he said. “We know that a third of our neighbors have been left out, they haven’t shared in that success story that is Columbus.”

One of the biggest concerns for Linden residents, Ginther said, “is housing and home ownership.”

Habitat is a nonprofit organization that works with partners, donors and volunteers to help families in need achieve their dreams of home ownership. Once largely committed to new builds, the local affiliate in recent years has dramatically expanded its rehab and home-repair efforts, allowing it to reach more homes.

The approach can lead to broader difference in a neighborhood. One resident on a Linden-area street that saw several Habitat projects completed told Thomas that the following Christmas was the first he’d seen neighbors decorate homes with holiday lights.

“And he’d been there 30 years,” Thomas said.

Habitat Announces Habitat Housing Initiative - Habitat