The answers are encouraging and, in many cases, heartwarming. Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity recently asked respondents participating in its 2019 Family Survey if they had made any improvements to their Habitat Home since they purchased it.
One homeowner added a backyard patio with a gazebo. She bought her late neighbor’s lot after that individual’s house was torn down. “I know she would have loved us to receive it. We were good neighbors to each other,” she wrote in her survey. The homeowner, her husband and a friend also remodeled two bathrooms. “It was the first time ever doing this type of work. We needed to save money and both bathrooms turned out great. Looks professionally done,” she wrote.
Other homeowners remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. Some built sheds, fences and porches. Others finished attics and added lighting or a garage. One individual even planted fruit trees, although the homeowner admitted needing a little help to keep them alive.
“I was impressed in particular with the number of families doing significant home improvements to their houses,” says John Habat, president and CEO, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. “It’s one thing to replace a kitchen sink, but some people are finishing basements or adding a room. It was also an affirmation that if you expose people to sweat equity, tools and knowledge of how to put things together, they will help themselves throughout their Habitat homeownership.”
Most respondents were individuals who had only been in their Habitat home for the past five years, so Habat concludes that most of the mentioned improvements were probably completed within the early stages of homeownership. Surveys were conducted online and by mail by Evaluate for Impact and concluded in December 2019. Candidates for Habitat Homes live primarily within the city of Cleveland, but also across other parts of Cuyahoga County.
Habat was especially heartened by another survey revelation. His work with providing affordable housing has led him to long believe that the stabilization of housing leads to stabilization of employment and reliable and available transportation to jobs. That was true.
“Once people have that kind of environment, they can focus on self-improvement,” says Habat. “If you look at the percentage of people who have gone on to get college degrees or advanced college degrees, that was also pretty impressive to me.”
“I have been able to relieve stress by not worrying about how I was going to pay my rent and take care of my children and buy food,” wrote one respondent. “Being a homeowner has led me to be able to go back to school and earn another accomplishment.”
Another wrote: “Since purchasing our home from Habitat, life still rolled on. We experienced sickness, death and job loss, but did not worry about where we would live. It is an amazing feeling to have something to call our own. We take pride in our home.”
The survey asked respondents how they perceived topics that included affordability, responsibility, safety, stability and well-being and how those related to their Habitat home.
“Since the purchase of our home, my children and I are much closer,” noted a respondent. “I am still in disbelief sometimes that it’s my home. Somedays I just pull up and take pictures of the home. I am comfortable in my home and community. It has changed our life outlook. Anything is possible, and it takes hard work and patience.”
The survey will be used by Habitat for Humanity to gain a better, more objective understanding of its own operations and homeowners. It also will be shared with funders, as well as future homeowners to allow them to hear about the experiences and impact of Habitat homeownership.
“Overall, everything was overwhelmingly positive,” says Habat. “Families understand the housing experience is valuable to them. But they also understand that they are going to be urban pioneers in revitalizing the neighborhood. Our primary mission is affordable homeownership. But we also want to use that investment as a catalyst to create revitalization within a community.”
As one survey respondent wrote: “Coming home to my own home is the best part of my day.”
Among the survey’s key findings:
* 88 percent of respondents reported their Habitat home feels affordable.
* 79 percent report a better financial situation as a result of buying their Habitat home.
* 98 percent agreed with the statement, “I better understand the terms and responsibilities of maintaining a mortgage.”
* 88 percent agreed with the statement, “I gained valuable home maintenance skills.”
* Over 60 percent provided specific examples of how they have applied the skills they acquired through Habitat trainings to maintain and improve their homes.
* 81 percent feel better about their safety in their Habitat home.
* A minority are concerned about the neighborhoods surrounding their Habitat home; 18 percent feel worse about their safety since purchasing their home.
* 86 percent believe their life has been more stable since moving into their Habitat home.
* 86 percent feel confident in their ability to take care of their families and are hopeful about their future as a result of purchasing their Habitat home.
* 77 percent feel better about their level of stress because of their Habitat home.
What: The Habitat Walk/Run/Mosey — the only annual fundraiser of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity
When and Where: 8:30 a.m., Saturday, June 13, at Lower Edgewater Park, Cleveland
Goal: Raise $100,000 to build in the Buckeye/Woodhill neighborhood
What you can do: Register for free and donate/raise $20 or more to get T-shirt; join as team captain, participant or virtual walker