If you had the opportunity to give one homeless child a home or three homeless children homes, which would you choose?
For John Habat, president/CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, the answer is simple. Habat’s personal mission is to provide affordable home opportunities and help rebuild as many homes in rundown Cleveland neighborhoods as possible with the assistance of volunteers, which last year totaled more than 2,800, as well as numerous individual and corporate sponsors.
Cleveland Habitat is the only Habitat affiliate in the country that exclusively rehabilitates entire homes. It has been doing so since 2013. The organization had the opportunity to showcase its successes to an international audience during the Republican National Convention in July with the help of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman. Cleveland Habitat, Portman and Owens Corning, which, along with other sponsors, donated $250,000, worked together on the “Buckeye Build Project.”
Two homes were fully rehabbed in Cleveland’s historic Buckeye Neighborhood, where the median household income is $14,491 and the child poverty rate is 66 percent. More than 10 existing residents also were assisted with exterior improvements.
The improvements in Buckeye were planned long before the RNC. In November 2015, Cleveland Habitat announced a three-year initiative to focus its efforts in Cleveland neighborhoods that have good revitalization potential. The long-term goal is to rehab 100 homes and help 200 existing homeowners in areas that include Buckeye, Circle North, Fairfax and Stockyards.
“Downtown Cleveland has all kinds of fantastic market-rate development going on with beautiful places to live, but let’s look at the reality — almost 60 percent of our children live in poverty in Cleveland, with the majority of those households headed by single mothers,” Habat says. “Many of the people who rent in Cleveland are considered housing burdens because their housing costs exceed 30 percent of their gross monthly income, which often results in living in substandard housing.”
“What about the other families left out there? Where are they going to live? What is their opportunity to own their own home? That is where Habitat’s mission becomes even more important to the Greater Cleveland community.”
Habitat’s zero-percent interest mortgage program makes homeownership available to families who have no access to conventional mortgage financing. Habitat homeowners typically pay an average of $385 per month for principal, taxes and insurance. Some fully pay off mortgages in 15 years or less. In addition, Cleveland Habitat has made furnishing a home affordable with its ReStores, which are reuse and recycle centers that enable homeowners on a tight budget to economically refurnish their homes. One is located at its administrative offices on 2110 W. 110th St., Cleveland. The other is at 4601 Northfield Road, North Randall.
“I think people understand if you are really going to change a family’s life, owning your own home is unparalleled,” Habat says. “If you are going to change a neighborhood, you have to transition it from a renter-based neighborhood to a homeowner based-neighborhood, because that will make a difference in terms of stability and safety."