No matter who we are or where we come from, we all deserve to have a decent life. We deserve to feel the strength and stability that affordable housing can provide. We deserve to know we have the power to take care of ourselves and build our own futures. At Habitat for Humanity, this is what unites us. Our shared vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live. Because you, me, we – we’re all humans. And every single one of us deserves the opportunity for a better future.
THE NEED IN CHICAGO
Chicago has recently seen dramatic increases in cost-burdened renters and owners across every income group, reflecting a growing instability and housing insecurity in our city: one in 10 people currently face inadequate housing. This is a critical issue, as housing is essential to healthy families and communities. Research shows the value of quality, stable affordable housing and demonstrates it is critical to driving positive outcomes in many aspects of people's lives: such as improving school performance, decreasing crime, and enhancing the physical and mental health of both children and adults.
While it's incredibly important that individuals and families have a healthy and affordable home, we believe that it's equally important to support entire communities. In Chicago, we know that neighborhoods are drivers of individual well-being, so we concentrate our work and investments into specific neighborhoods to maximize our impact. Currently, we are at work, in partnership with local residents, in the South Side neighborhoods of West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing. Our programs and services include:
AFFORDABLE HOMEOWNERSHIP. We partner with hard-working families who do not qualify for typical loans to become homeowners. Qualifying families meet three basic criteria: 1) demonstrate a need for decent housing (living in unsafe or overcrowded conditions or are severely rent-burdened); 2) are willing to partner in our program by completing 250-350 volunteer hours and to attend our free homebuyer readiness training classes; 3) have the ability to purchase their home with an affordable mortgage. Qualifying families enter the program as a cohort, designed to provide built-in support for navigating the process of homeownership as a first-time buyer. It can take one to two years to complete the affordable homownership program. At the end of the program, members of the cohorts become neighbors in one of our focus neighborhoods, living in healthy and sustainable homes built by themselves, volunteers, and Habitat construction staff.
HOMEBUYER READINESS. Habitat Chicago is invested in the vitality of housing markets as a source of welfare to its residents; a well-prepared homeowner investing in his/her neighborhood through homeownership, property taxes, local spending and social capital, regardless of his/her lender, only improves that vitality. Our six to nine-month program is designed to ready individuals for home purchase and homeownership. At the end of the program, individuals may opt to pursue the best homeownership option for their situation, be it a non-traditional loan through Habitat Chicago, a semi-traditional loan through a nonprofit lending partner, or a traditional loan through a bank or similar lender.
NEIGHBORHOOD GRANTS. Our Neighborhood Grants Initiative invites neighbors in our focus areas to identify beautification and/or improvement projects they would like to see on their blocks and submit an application to Habitat for funding for the tools and materials to make the projects possible. Upon approval, neighbors work together to plan for and carry out the projects. Habitat supports the projects through funding, resource guides, materials advice, and, to the degree needed, structured planning sessions.
ENERGY EFFICIENCY TRAINING. The benefits of an energy efficient home for low-income households are expansive and include: reduced heating and cooling costs, improved air quality, improved lifespan of heating and cooling systems, fewer pests, increased home resale value, a more comfortable place to live, and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. Alongside the West Pullman-based nonprofit, Sustainable Options for Urban Living, Habitat Chicago provides free workshops on improving home energy efficiency and distributes free energy efficiency kits to low-income Chicagoans.
COMMUNITY ACTION. We provide consultation and ongoing training and support for residents of our focus neighborhoods who want to develop civic groups to improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods. As appropriate, we provide or connect resources to local action groups (think: block clubs) to execute their projects. It is a highly customized process, ultimately resulting in 100% resident-led efforts. For example, we have helped residents execute projects like an annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony and job fairs.