Who we are:
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, nondenominational Christian housing organization. Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller and his wife Linda, Habitat has built more than 500,000 houses, providing shelter for over 1,000,000 people worldwide. Now at work in 100 countries, we are building a house every 26 minutes. HFHI seeks to eliminate poverty housing and homelessness from the world, and to make shelter a matter of conscience and action.
Habitat Savannah, the Coastal Empire Habitat for Humanity, was founded in 1983 as an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Habitat Savannah and its supporters have built over 112 homes for families throughout Savannah.
The Coastal Empire office coordinates all aspects of Habitat home building in the Savannah area including family selection and support, fundraising, site selection, home construction, and mortgage servicing. It is operated by a small administrative staff and is managed by a local volunteer board. Individuals, corporations, faith groups and others provide vital financial support and participate in all stages of construction as well as providing numerous support functions.
What we do:
Using volunteer labor and tax-deductible donations of money and materials, we build and sell homes to partner families at 0% interest. Partner families make monthly mortgage payments and work 350 hours of "sweat equity" building their own homes.
Partner families are chosen by a local Family Selection Committee. The Committee is responsible for setting criteria, reviewing applications, and carefully choosing the families who qualify for the program. We use a fair and impartial process, following nondiscriminatory policies and abiding by all policies of the Fair Housing Act. Applications are available to people in need of decent shelter regardless of religion, nationality, race, political stance, or gender. Interview and home visits are used to identify families in greatest need. In 2009, Habitat Savannah received 1,132 applications for the 5 homes to be constructed in 2010- 2011. The need is far greater than our available resources.
Habitat offers a hand up- not a hand out. We do not give money to the selected families. We sell the completed home to the homeowner through a 0% mortgage. The mortgage includes all costs of building the houses, including building materials, construction labor and a small administration fee. The average cost of a Habitat home in Savannah, Georgia is $95,000. Homeowners are able to realize the dream of homeownership paying low monthly mortgage payments over a 30 year period.
Partner families are hard working individuals who have a need for affordable housing that meets standard living conditions in a safe neighborhood. They are approved on their willingness to work in partnership with us and their ability to repay the mortgage.
It is also a requirement for families to contribute "sweat equity", or labor in the building of their house (or other supportive activities) and to
help other families in building houses. Sweat equity is also known as mutual help or volunteer labor. There are many ways a family can fulfill
this requirement both on and off the building site. Homeowners dig foundations, raise walls, install doors and windows, paint, landscape,
provide food for other workers, carry materials to the building site, help in our office, wrap gifts, and stock products at our ReStore.
Why must a family contribute labor? For many reasons:
- To reduce the cost of the house
- To increase the family's sense of ownership and pride in the house
- To train the homeowners to take care of the house
- To promote partnerships and sharing in the community
Why we do it:
Millions of Americans face a housing crisis. In fact, 5.1 million American families have "worst-case" housing needs, forced to pay more than half their income for housing, endure overcrowded conditions and/or live in houses with severe physical deficiencies. While the number of families in poverty is growing, the number of affordable rental units is shrinking, and most families who qualify for government housing assistance aren't receiving any aid.
In Savannah, Habitat homeowners are those who live at the "poverty level". In 2008, the "poverty level income" was $21,200 for a family of four. 31,514 or 23.8% of Savannah residents were living in poverty in 2008. Based on the local cost of living, the income necessary to live without government subsidy for a Chatham County family of four is $32,600/year or $15.67/hour or 96 hours per week at minimum wage working 52 weeks a year. An estimated 40% of households in Savannah are paying more than 30% of their income on housing costs.
A 2006-2007 study, City of Savannah Affordable Housing Study, initiated by the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, indicated the median sales price of a home in Savannah was $165,000. This price requires a household income of over $47,000.
Housing problems have far-reaching consequences. The high cost of housing leaves low-income families little money for other basic necessities like food, clothing or health care. Substandard housing can endanger the health and safety of its occupants, erode their hope and self-worth, and impair their children's ability to succeed in school.
Habitat for Humanity is changing lives. Working in partnership with low-income families to build decent homes they can afford to buy, Habitat helps to break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness. As we look across the world and the Savannah community, the needs are great. There are many ways in which you may become involved with this movement to respond compassionately to human needs. Your help is needed if we are to continue in the Savannah area. Please help by:
- Sponsoring a home or joining with other organizations to sponsor a home
- Donating land and/or materials for new homes, or assisting us in finding affordable land or discounted materials
- Volunteering- opportunities exist, not only on the building crews, but also in dozens of other ways.