B is for Baloney: The Myth-ing Information Problem
What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when a young couple talks about finding affordable housing? What about when a politician talks about it? Or a non-profit?
Lots of myths and mis-information about affordable housing affect our understanding of it. Here are some of the highlights from a Community Housing Partners fact sheet, Affordable Housing Facts . (Similar sources are linked at the end of this article.)
- It’s ugly: In the past, this was probably true, but the laws have changed. Affordable housing has to fit the community character in size and style, and it has to meet the same building restrictions and design standards as market-rate housing. If government funding is involved, then construction might have even more restrictions or higher standards. What makes it ‘affordable’ is the financing of the construction and/or the mortgage.
- It increases crime: According the CHP fact sheet, “There is no correlation between safe, decent and affordable housing and crime. Studies show that what does cause crime (and a host of other socio-economic ills) is community disinvestment, overcrowding, and a lack of jobs and community services. Failure to build affordable housing leads to slum conditions of overcrowding, absentee owners and deteriorating properties with no alternatives available to low-income families…Careful screening, proper management, and security measures help assure that illegal activities do not take place and that, if they do, they are dealt with swiftly and decisively. Most affordable housing residents want nothing more than to become part of the quiet, peaceful life of the surrounding community. They have sought out affordable housing so that they can live independent, self-sufficient lives.”
- It isn’t an asset to the community: The opposite is true. Affordable housing “enables low-paid workers and others to avoid homelessness…avoid the need for public benefits…enables individuals to stabilize their lives so they can pursue jobs, access needed services, and deal effectively with any problems they may have…Availability of affordable housing enables the city to attract and to retain employers who require affordable housing for their lower level employees…also reduces the stress on other government-provided social services.”
Other sources note another common myth: “I don’t know anyone who needs affordable housing.” Actually, you probably know at least one and maybe even several. Let’s go back to the definition of ‘affordable,’ which is that no more than 30% of gross household income is spent on rent/utilities or, in the case of home ownership, PITI (principle, interest, taxes, and insurance).
Look at the chart below; if you’re earning $10 per hour, on a 40 hour week, a 4 week month, an affordable rent or mortgage situation would mean paying no more than $480 per month. This is at an annual income of $19,200. Another way to look at this is to look at the monthly rent column; for example, it’s very common to see a 2 bedroom apartment renting for $1200+ per month. To keep that ‘affordable’ you’d have to be earning $48,000 per year.
|Weekly gross income @ 40 hours||Income working 4 weeks per month||Affordable Monthly Housing Expense||Annual Income required:|
Any guesses as to a typical income in your company? Your church? Your community? Do you know what the median hourly wage is for your area? The median rent? Once we look at housing costs from the perspective of hourly or annual income, we learn a few things…and we’d be surprised at who we know or who we’re near who needs affordable housing options.
To better understand this way of looking at the issue, the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) calculates what they call “The Housing Wage.” This number illustrates what hourly wage you’d have to earn to afford the typical rent based on where you live. For 2018, Florida has the 16th highest housing wage requirement in the entire country. Any guesses at to what you’d have to earn per hour to afford a typical 2 bedroom rental home in the state? Or if you’re earning minimum wage, how many hours you’d have to work each week to meet that ‘affordable’ number? I double dog dare you to find out!
Your turn: If you’re up for the double-dog dare, go to the NLIHC site and see what hourly wage is required to afford (pay less than 30% of household income) rent/PITI in various locations. You can even drill down by zip code.
We encourage you to talk about this with everyone you know. Why? Because there’s someone out there who needs this information…and feel free to send them our way if they’re looking for an affordable home to buy in Lake or Sumter Counties. Let’s get the word out about making housing affordable!
And don’t forget to share your discoveries with us on social media.
http://www.shimberg.ufl.edu/publications/FL_2017_RMS_fact_sheet.pdf (Florida specific info)
To a passerby, the group of people at Mary and Raymond Scott’s house may have looked like a gathering of old friends and family. Among the hustle and bustle of a restoration in progress, there was laughter, story telling, and a sense of something special happening in the air.
They weren’t old friends though; they were a group of volunteers that Mary Scott saw outside another house in her Wildwood neighborhood, not too long ago. She noticed the Habitat for Humanity truck, and with her own home needing repairs, she felt drawn to get out and ask for help. Her application was approved, and her own experience with Habitat began. She considers it to be one of her greatest blessings in life.
The night before the restoration, Mary was so excited that she couldn’t sleep. “It was like my birthday and Christmas wrapped up into one,” she says. That following morning, when the volunteers stepped onto her property, she made it her mission to make them all feel welcomed. She greeted each volunteer with handshakes and hugs, taking the time to get to know each one personally. She would ask about their families and share stories about hers. She had cold drinks on hand, and prepared snacks and lunch so nobody would go hungry. “I like to make everyone feel special,” she says. “To me, everybody is somebody.” The gratitude and kindness Mary and Raymond showed ensured that those somebodies were going to pour their hearts into restoring their home for them.
As the house was being repaired and painted, a new AC unit was being installed and landscaping was being selected. If you didn’t know any better, you could have easily mistaken Raymond Scott for a volunteer. If there was a ladder being climbed, Raymond was at the bottom supporting it. When the AC was being installed, he was right there holding it in place. He stirred paint and brought tools, humble and helpful through the whole project.
Their experience with Habitat for Humanity has impacted the Scotts greatly. Not only do they have a fresh coat of paint on their home, but they also have a fresh perspective on life. Mary says she “thanks God every day” for this opportunity, and with her son being sick in the hospital believes that Habitat was sent into her life at a time she needed it the most. “I’ve never had anyone help me like this,” says Mary. “I feel so happy.”
When the project is completed, the volunteers leave but they are not forgotten. This blessing has brought Mary and Raymond Scott closer together as a couple and they are thankful for that. Every morning they are up early, proudly taking care of their home. Together, they replanted a banana plant gifted to them by a volunteer so that it could get more sun. Neighbors slow down to compliment the colors Mary picked out for the house, and regulars at her church gush about how pretty it is. Their son joked about not recognizing the house at first, and their six-year-old great granddaughter picks up a broom and helps them sweep the “new house.” While this journey has brought the Scott family closer together, their kindness and appreciation has left an unforgettable impression on the volunteers.
I guess you could say that Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just work on homes, they work on hearts, too.
By: Lauren Lester
Maybe you aren’t cost-burdened. You don’t have to decide between paying the light bill or buying food. And neither do your friends or neighbors. Maybe you’re thinking this whole issue of affordable housing doesn’t affect you.
A 2014 report by Enterprise Community Partners (here) should make us all pause and reconsider. The lack of affordable housing has measurable impacts on families, communities, and society overall. The report on housing instability, including homelessness, presents their findings by major issues; below is an excerpt of just three of these issues we can all relate to:
• Education — Housing instability/homelessness (HI/H) jeopardizes children’s performance and success in school and contributes to long-lasting achievement gaps. The stress of HI/H makes learning difficult; in addition, it disrupts school attendance, lowering students’ overall academic performance. Long-term academic success is directly impacted by housing stability.
• Health — HI/H has serious negative impacts on the health of children and adults. Problems include asthma, being underweight, developmental delays, and increases the risk of depression, to name a few. Affordable housing provides stability, freeing up resources for nutritious food and health care.
• Neighborhood Quality — The report states that “A number of national and regional studies have found that investments in affordable housing produce benefits in the form of jobs, local income, sales, increased property values and property tax revenues…” and “…Numerous studies show that affordable housing has a neutral or positive effect on surrounding property values…”
Let’s bring this closer to home. In October 2017 the Orlando Sentinel published the results of a study done by the Shimberg Center for Housing Studies at the University of Florida and Miami Homes for All, a South Florida nonprofit. The research focused on student homelessness; the Sentinel’s article (“Central Florida’s Homeless Students Top 14,000”) can be found here. According to the study, “…only 24 percent to 27 percent of homeless students passed assessment tests, while 40 percent to 48 percent of other students did.” They had higher rates of truancy and suspension, and “Even compared with students who live in poverty but are not homeless, the students whose families stay in shelters, cars, doubled up with another family or in extended-stay hotels fared significantly worse…” The Sentinel quotes Christina Savino, Orange County Public Schools senior administrator for homeless and migrant education: “…that lack of a stable home still really makes a difference.”
The lack of affordable, stable housing eventually ripples through all aspects of the local community and economy. While you might not be cost-burdened based on your income, your larger community, including the central Florida region as a whole, suffers when families are priced out of a stable place to call home.
Your turn: Contact a local food pantry, teacher, community police officer, or health clinic and discuss the issues they see related to housing instability/homelessness. For example, ask the food pantry how hunger affects their clients’ choices on other critical needs; ask a teacher how hunger affects a student’s classroom behavior and academic progress; ask a local police officer how the lack of affordable housing affects crime; ask a health clinic about the impact of delayed medical attention on children and families. Who else might you discuss the topic with? Share your experiences with us!
A local family soon will have a home with the help of 11 seniors from The Villages High School.
The students are building an 1,100-square-foot house in Lady Lake through the school’s Construction Management Academy’s partnership with Habitat for Humanity, a housing organization that works with communities across the nation.
On Thursday, the roof trusses were set on the house where the students have worn hard hats and climbed ladders four days a week since the beginning of the school year.
VHS Principal Bill Zwick stood at the construction site to observe and admire their hard work.
“This gives them the total experience of building a house from beginning to end,” Zwick said. “When they graduate, they’ll have this background knowledge. It’s a learning experience that will benefit them no matter where they go in life.”
The students started building the back wall Aug. 16, and their hands will be on the house until the project is complete at the end of the school year. So far, they are on schedule.
The two-year academy launched last year, and this is the first year it has been offered to both juniors and seniors.
The juniors learn the basics of construction and go through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration 10-hour training, and the seniors put their skills to the test.
“It gives us a good foundation to build a career,” said senior Colby Sharp, 17.
LAKE COUNTY, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) – A Lake County class has high school students building a home with their own hands.
The class works to build a home within the school year, leaving them nine more months to go. At the end of those months, the home will be turned over to Habitat for Humanity. The students will complete everything that is not mechanical, plumbing, or electric. As of Thursday morning, the foundation has been poured in and they are setting up the roof.
Students come out to build the home four days a week. Friday’s are held in the classroom.
Affordable Housing Part I: The A, B, Cs
A is Also for Affordable Alternatives
Housing burdened. That’s the diagnosis if you’re paying more than 30% of your household income in rent/utilities. If you’re paying 50% or more, then you’re extremely housing burdened, but you probably already knew that! Whether you’re renting or trying to buy a house, are there options for finding something that fits your budget?
The good news? Yes, many programs help with renting or buying, based on location, income, family size, and other criteria. Their goal is to keep you at/under that 30% benchmark. Habitat for Humanity Lake Sumter is one of them, though we’re a small non-profit rather than a government-funded agency. If you’re hoping to buy a home in Lake or Sumter County, FL, consider starting with us. Review our Home-Ownership Qualification Criteria here: https://habitatls.org/programs/apply/.
For more comprehensive options, explore what’s offered by the Federal government, as noted in the links below; we’re sharing content from these websites as well.
The bad news? Finding the right one takes a lot of time and effort, and there’s often a long waiting list to access these programs.
Renters: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the mothership of programs and information. Start here https://www.hud.gov/topics/rental_assistance and use their links:
- Privately owned subsidized housing – HUD helps apartment owners offer reduced rents to low-income tenants. Search for an apartment and apply directly at the management office.
- Public Housing – affordable apartments for low-income families, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. To apply, contact a public housing agency (PHA).
- Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) – find your own place and use the voucher to pay for all or part of the rent. To apply, contact a public housing agency.
- HUD Resource Locator – search for HUD field and regional offices, local PHAs, Multifamily and Public Housing locations, homeless coordinated entry system points of contacts, and USDA (Department of Agriculture), which focuses strictly on rural housing
Were you surprised to see the USDA listed? Their programs cover rentals, home purchases, and even repair grants. https://www.usda.gov/topics/rural/housing-assistance
- USDA Rentals: Click on the state and keep going as prompted. https://rdmfhrentals.sc.egov.usda.gov/RDMFHRentals/select_state.jsp
Home Buying: Both HUD and the USDA are good sources for home buying information, guidelines, and financial input. Check these links to learn more:
- HUD: https://www.hud.gov/topics/buying_a_home
- HUD: Housing counseling agencies throughout the USA offer advice on buying or renting, credit issues, and more. https://apps.hud.gov/offices/hsg/sfh/hcc/hcs.cfm
- USDA: Home buying loans for low and very low income people in qualified rural areas: https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/single-family-housing-direct-home-loans
Your turn: Find an affordable apartment for a) your elderly uncle (monthly income $960) or your cousin (a single mom with a pre-schooler, earning $15/hour working 40 hours/week). Rent + utilities cannot exceed 30% of the total monthly income. Using the resources above, find what programs are offered in your area; are they in a city or a rural area? What restrictions apply? Is there a wait list? How long? You have one week to find it…GO! Don’t forget to share what you learned in this process on our FB page, https://www.facebook.com/habitatls/
More than 30 years ago, the United Nations General Assembly took an important step in promoting the idea that everyone deserves a decent place to live by declaring that the first Monday in October would be World Habitat Day.
Every year Habitat for Humanity joins our partners around the world to rededicate ourselves to recognizing the basic right of everyone to adequate shelter. Habitat for Humanity asks everyone to join together as one global network in communicating the message that every one of us deserves the opportunity for a better future, and that a decent place to live can remove barriers to opportunity, health, and success that might have been part of a family’s life for years, and in many cases for generations.
Our effectiveness is only as good as the people who help enact our mission – that’s you! Help us spread the word about World Habitat Day and the underlying need it’s meant to address.
Take Action Now!
|1. Share!||Push out our World Habitat Day message on your favorite social media platform.
We may not go viral, but if we can go local then we’ve reached the community we serve and have the potential to change lives.
|2. Get involved!||
Our build sites always need extra hands, and Carlos is always ready to sign people up for the next project. Reach out to him at (352) 483-0434 x119 or Carlos@HabitatLS.org.
|Money moves mountains, and it also builds houses for local families in need – help us increase our ability to serve by donating to your Hometown Habitat today!|
You’ve heard the old saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” and believe me, there are lots of treasures to be found while thrifting. Browsing through a thrift or resale store may seem fruitless at first glance and you may find yourself a tad underwhelmed, but the most seasoned thrifters will tell you that the key to a good find is a little bit of luck and a lot of looking. In order to find fantastic deals and ideas for restoring items to their former glory or better, follow these tips and tricks.
Tip #1: Keep an open mind. You are not doing yourself any favors by judging an item in its current condition. Don’t disregard an item because the paint is chipped or you don’t like that crazy color. Even the saddest looking items can be spruced up with a vibrant paint job. Look for pieces that you like the shape and size of, or that need a simple touch up. For outdoor and smaller décor items, there is an array of spray paints that can turn almost any item from boring to beautiful. On bigger furniture pieces, chalk paint is your new best friend. It has the rustic farmhouse look, is easy to apply without prior sanding and is extremely forgiving over scratches and nicks. Experiment with colors, types of paint, and sanding techniques for a piece that will have others asking, “where’d you get that?”
Tip #2: Repurpose an item. 50% of my personal thrift store finds are not being used for what they were originally intended. Let your imagination go wild or take an idea that you’ve seen before and make it your own. Old windows are extremely popular for their versatility, and can be repurposed as photo frames, chalk boards, or coffee mug holders. An old wooden crate can be painted and used as an indoor or outdoor coffee table for that cute coastal look. Find an old real wood dresser? Paint it, distress it, and replace the bottom drawers with decorative baskets for a unique TV stand. The possibilities for repurposing are endless!
Tip#3: Shop off season. If you follow the trends of thrift store donations, you will find that most people are donating the seasonal items that they aren’t currently using. It is much easier to purge summer items in winter and vice versa. If you are conscious of this, try shopping a season ahead to get first pick on those items. Shopping for winter clothes and Christmas décor in June will allow you to get all your winter items at a reasonable price before the cold rolls around.
Tip #4: Thoroughly inspect your items. While it is not expected for second hand or discounted items to be in perfect condition, make sure you check your items for functionality. Look for wood rot on furniture, holes in clothing, and ask an associate to plug in appliances to ensure they are in working condition. There is nothing worse than a purchase that you can’t use, so take your time to look over your items. I would never advise going into a resale store in a rush as it can be easy to overlook the best bargains and end up with something that you may not use.
Happy Thrifting everyone!
You can try these ideas and find your supplies at any of our 4 ReStores!
710 S. Bay Street
Eustis, FL 32726
205 Woodfield Court
Groveland, FL 34736
200 N. Lone Oak Drive
Leesburg, FL 34748
6761 County Rd 148
Wildwood, FL 34785
In very short order, Raymond and Mary Scott’s home in Wildwood will be sporting a new coat of paint on the exterior, improved landscaping and a new window unit that runs both air conditioning and heat. That’s all thanks to Habitat for Humanity Lake-Sumter’s Preservation and Repair program and the large team of volunteers who showed up to do the work.
“Not everyone is aware that refurbishing homes is also part of our program, not just building new homes,” said Habitat for Humanity site supervisor Travis Wofford. “Last year we refurbished 50 homes in Lake and Sumter counties.”
A large contingent of the volunteers came from the Amigos Sports Club in The Villages.
“We’ve been around for 10 years” said Amigos Sports Club founder and president David Lindsey. “We gather to do charitable work and also party once a month.”
The club has grown and currently has a waiting list of more than a hundred people on it. Among the group’s many charitable projects is their work for Habitat for Humanity, which they have done for several years. Lindsey said that his chief duty on this project, in addition to rounding up enough volunteers, was to make sure he brought the doughnuts.
Qualifications for the Preservation and Repair program are based on income and home ownership. The Scott’s are retired and have lived in their home for 21 years. Mary retired after 30 years in custodial services with the school board. While she was driving one day, she saw a Habitat truck and a house being painted. She got out and asked questions and started the application process.
“I feel God sent me that way on that day,” she said. “This means the world to me.”
She was excited to pick out new colors for her exterior. “I wanted something brighter than the brown we had always had,” Mary said.
She decided to go with light gray and a darker gray for the trim.
“Travis helped me with the shades of the colors,” Mary said. “The thing I am most excited about is the new window unit,” she added, pointing out that the one they had “didn’t work very well and didn’t have heat.”
A is for Affordable…
“Can we afford it?”
This is one of the first questions any renter or home buyer should be asking. But what, exactly, does ‘affordable’ mean? What’s affordable to you might not be to me. Is this just a philosophy about how to handle money or is this something more concrete and measurable?
It’s actually very straight-forward. The term ‘affordable housing’ means that the household spends no more than 30% of their total household income on rent plus utilities.
Because households need money left over to pay for things like food, transportation, and healthcare—known as non-discretionary spending (these are ‘needs’ not ‘wants’).
“Housing expenditures that exceed 30 percent of household income have historically been viewed as an indicator of a housing affordability problem. The conventional 30 percent of household income that a household can devote to housing costs before the household is said to be “burdened” evolved from the United States National Housing Act of 1937” (1).
The Housing Act created the nation’s public housing program to serve families with the very lowest incomes. Since then, a variety of definitions were used to establish what was considered ‘affordable’ for public housing rents. By 1981, the 30% benchmark was put into place and has remained the standard.
This benchmark eventually became part of the home-buying process when lenders began using it as part of their evaluation of a buyer’s ability to repay the loan, especially if the borrower had other debts to pay. However, in mortgage-lending land, “rent plus utilities” was replaced by the PITI factor: this is the combined total of the loan’s Principle, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance. “Through the mid 1990s, underwriting standards reflected the lender’s perception of loan risk. That is, a household could afford to spend nearly 30 percent of income for servicing housing debt and another 12 percent to service consumer debt. Above these thresholds, a household could not afford the home” and the lender wouldn’t take the risk of the buyer defaulting (1).
This benchmark helps families and landlords or lenders objectively gauge the household’s ability to handle the financial burden of the monthly housing payment. Whether it’s a rental or a purchase, then, it’s a very helpful tool and one we’ll come back to later in this series. The big question now is: based on this definition of ‘affordable’ what are my options if I can’t find a place I can afford?
If that’s the case, then it’s time to look at the variety of programs in place to help make housing affordable, whether it’s a rental or a home purchase. We’ll look at some of those next time and also consider why affordable housing is important…not just for a family but also for the entire community.
Your turn: Calculate what percent of your household income is used to pay for your housing (rent + utilities, or mortgage PITI). Next, ask others you know to do the same. Consider asking employees, young singles or marrieds, etc. Discuss how your and their situations would look if 50% or more of your total household income went to pay for housing. What other expenses would be affected?