Housing crisis

Overcoming the housing crisis will take all the tools in the toolbox: John Habat

Guest columnist John Habat is president and CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. He will retire from the role, which he held for more than 10 years, on September 30.

Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its 35th anniversary of building homes and empowering families through safe and affordable homeownership.

Since 1987, we’ve helped over 325 families buy safe, affordable homes – with more families moving into their new homes in 2021 than any other year. We have also helped over 250 families repair the exterior of their homes.

In doing so, we have become a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown neighborhoods.

Although we are proud of all that we have accomplished, our work only scratches the surface. There is no time to rest on our laurels.

The cost of housing is rising to unprecedented levels and the inventory of affordable housing options is abysmal. It is a national housing crisis.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says families who pay more than 30 percent of their gross income for housing are burdened with costs or housing and often struggle to afford basic necessities.

By this definition, 39% of all Cleveland households are overburdened with housing. Unfortunately, Cleveland has the shameful distinction of being the poorest mid-sized city in the country.

A March 2022 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition indicates that in the Cleveland area, there are only 78 affordable housing units available for every 100 people earning at least 50% of the area median income (AMI). For those earning 30% or less of the AMI, there are only 41 units available per 100 people.

Homeownership rates, wealth accumulation, and racial and ethnic disparities within the US housing market are widening. According to the Urban Institute, black homeownership rates are significantly lower than white homeownership rates. Locally, the homeownership rate for whites is 74.3%, compared to 35.2% for black households.

While there are many organizations focused on affordable rental properties for low and moderate incomes in Cleveland (and there is an urgent need for more units), Habitat is the only organization in the area focused on affordable homeownership from day one.

We must do more, and that is exactly what we have the opportunity to do.

Recently, a proposal announced by Cleveland City Council leadership would provide $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to Cleveland Habitat. Habitat can leverage that amount into a $30.5 million campaign to build/rehabilitate 140 homes on both sides of Cleveland and help 260 existing homeowners with repairs.

It’s a good use of ARPA funds and good news for Cleveland residents looking to become homeowners.

This project is in line with the goals set by the Mayor of Cleveland and City Council leadership for ARPA funds: it will not only solve Cleveland’s severe housing crisis, but also invest in our housing stock. aging.

Plus, because home ownership offers the best way for low-income families to build wealth, it will give Cleveland residents a much-needed chance to build capital.

Cleveland has a historic opportunity to revitalize neighborhoods and foster a new generation of homeownership and wealth. If Habitat is rewarded even more by ARPA and/or other funds, we can do even more for the people of Cleveland.

We are committed to doing this and more over our next 35 years and beyond.

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