Memphis Habitat Empowers Local Families
The following is a guest blog post by Jessica N. Hord, Director of Marketing and Communications, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis
The buzz of hammers and saws, the bustle of volunteers as they work, the pictures of homeowners receiving keys to finished homes – these are the visible, tangible, well-known aspects of a Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis build. Once you experience them, they stick with you. And it’s true Habitat builds houses, but we build so much more than that. Habitat helps build a sense of empowerment, strength and independence for our homebuyers and their families.
Many don’t realize that Habitat is a mortgage program designed to make homebuying accessible to families who could not otherwise access a loan.
Habitat provides zero-interest, zero-profit mortgages that enable families to buy their first homes. Applicants have to qualify for the program based on their need for decent, affordable housing; their willingness to partner with Habitat by performing “sweat equity” volunteer work, saving a down payment and emergency fund, and attending a multi-week homebuyer education class; and their ability to repay the mortgage.
It’s true the need for Habitat here in Memphis remains great, with nearly 30 percent of Memphians living below the poverty line. Local families are often faced with numerous housing issues, including cost burden. Currently, the average rent on a two-bedroom apartment in the area is $832, or $9,984 a year. The poverty level for a family of four is around $24,250.
A family living at the poverty level would have to spend 41 percent of their income on rent alone. At Habitat, we work to free families from that burden and create an opportunity for homeownership.
The Habitat program is a shared investment – by Habitat, by the organizations that support it and by the families who qualify. Local organizations like FedEx help support the construction of the homes and provide volunteers to help keep house-building costs low, a savings that’s passed on to the families in the purchase price of their homes. To date, Memphis Habitat has served more than 445 local homebuyers through our house-building program. Twenty-four of those homes have been constructed entirely by FedEx colleagues, more than any other local corporate supporter.
FedEx has been involved with Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis since the late 1990s through new home builds, special projects like Operation Home Delivery after Hurricane Katrina and the Habitat ReStore. Since 2013, Memphis Habitat has been fortunate to be a part of the annual FedEx Cares volunteer effort. Through Habitat, FedEx has improved the lives of at least 44 families in the Memphis area and six outside of Memphis.
To date, more than 10,400 FedEx volunteers have invested more than 47,000 hours to helping Habitat empower people to build a better future for themselves and their families. That’s an amazing investment!
Ultimately, the Habitat program is all about sustainable homeownership – both for families who are buying their first homes through the longstanding mortgage program and the homeowners and senior citizens who have been served via Habitat’s newer Neighborhood Revitalization and Aging in Place programs. Through these programs, Habitat takes a more holistic approach to revitalization – creating new homeowners and property tax payers while also helping people in need maintain their homes and retain their independence.
Habitat’s vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live, and in Memphis, we’ve been working with local supporters like FedEx to make that a reality since 1983.