A quarter-century of affordable housing

Habitat for Humanity and the ongoing quest to help families find a home

The author is president of Habitat for Humanity of Butte County.

This year marks the 25th that Habitat for Humanity of Butte County has been building homes, community and hope. In that time, we have partnered with qualified homebuyers, volunteers and donors to build 32 affordable homes. While that may not sound like a large number, consider our building model that makes it all come together: a minimum of 4,000 volunteer hours, plus the human and financial capital from the families, Habitat, the city of Chico, local builders, donors, your neighbors and local civic and faith groups.

Think about the people whose lives have been enhanced by home ownership—those who pay a mortgage and raise their families in secure homes, having benefited from this community commitment. Our research shows that local Habitat families have done well, including the children who have gone to Butte College, Chico State and schools farther afield. They report occupations like teacher, nurse and business owner, among others. One family told us, “We do not live in fear all the time. We know, no matter what, we can afford to pay our mortgage and we will have a home.”

The affordable housing picture has changed dramatically over the past quarter-century. The first decade, Habitat built homes solely with volunteers. In 2004, we launched ReStore and started bringing in funding through the sale of new and used building supplies and household items, an effort that also diverts discarded items from our local landfill. In 2007, we hired our first director and staff to support the growing projects.

In the past, federal and state funds were dedicated to affordable housing. That was also a time when more affordable housing was available, and more people could afford it. Now, we face a challenge. One-third of people in Butte County pay over 50 percent of their income for housing costs in a seriously tight market. So, even as we celebrate these past 25 years, we focus on the future of Butte County.

Please enjoy our anniversary celebration events this year (check out buttehabitat.org for details), and join us as a building partner to help families build their own homes for another 25 years!