The goal of home ownership may be a little closer for many local families thanks to the Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity and Cleveland City Council, which recently allocated $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the nonprofit organization. The purpose of the grant is to increase access to affordable home ownership in historically underserved areas of the city of Cleveland.
“This is the single largest gift or grant in our history,” says John Litten, president and CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity. “We will leverage these funds toward our overall strategic fundraising goal of $32.5 million to benefit more than 400 households.”
Funds raised not only help build new homes but also support rehabilitating existing homes and improving neighborhoods.
“Making minor improvements to a street, like building new steps on a house, can complete a street,” explains Litten. “These small fixes have been proven to increase home values and bring down crime in a neighborhood.”
Applicants for a new home complete a rigorous home ownership program. To qualify, they must have an annual household income between 30% and 80% of the area median. Families also must prove a need for improved housing, have the ability to pay for an affordable mortgage and agree to volunteer hours of “sweat equity.”
They must also attend workshops covering financial literacy and home safety and maintenance. Families are sold a home with a 0% mortgage, and in lieu of a down payment, they contribute 200 to 300 volunteer hours.
According to Litten, all this results in providing the homeowner with a safe, quality, generational asset.
“We are helping build generational wealth in neighborhoods with a history of generational poverty,” he explains.
Beyond the recent funding from the city of Cleveland, Habitat also works with many other local foundations, businesses and private donors. Some of their other major supporters include the Cleveland Foundation and St. Luke’s Foundation, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quicken Loans and Rocket Mortgage, to name a few. The organization’s three ReStore home improvement thrift stores also provide a significant stream of income.
In addition to the allocation through the city of Cleveland, the Habitat organization recently gained access to another large ARPA pool of funding. Funds from a $25 million grant to the Habitat for Humanity of Ohio are also available to all the local outfits throughout the state. The funding, which was announced in January, is earmarked for new home construction and home rehabs, as well as critical home repairs for seniors and people with disabilities. The Ohio allocation was the largest ARPA commitment for affordable housing in the country.
Litten never loses sight of the mission to bring people together to build homes, community and hope.
“It is a blessing to move into a new home,” he says.