Owning a home might be the American Dream—but maintaining it comes at a cost that may be too steep for families struggling to make ends meet.
For many families, the help comes at a much-needed time. In the current economic climate especially, some must choose between expenses like groceries, healthcare and mortgage payments versus repairing a furnace in the middle of winter or making their home accessible when they become disabled.
Fortunately, if the situation becomes dire, Habitat is somewhere central Arizona residents can turn.
The nonprofit operates several different programs including some for low-income senior and veteran homeowners. Since 1985, the organization has improved living conditions for more than 5,000 Arizona families.
"Habitat is so innovative, helping people where they need it," said David Hyde, regional home loans manager at BOK Financial Mortgage® and Habitat advisory board member in Arizona.
"Whether it's making mobility modifications like installing ramps or helping with renovations for elderly people who don't have resources and need roofs or air conditioners. They service single parents, people who have been down on their luck and are trying to get back into housing, and more."
By helping people stay in their homes safely, Habitat also provides job training to local Arizonians through its Construction Training Program (CTP). Created as an introduction to a career in construction, CTP participants practice their newfound skills in the field by repairing homes with Habitat.
The program currently boasts a 90% graduation rate and an 80% job placement rate, with many graduates returning to volunteer with the nonprofit after they’ve found full-time employment. In 2023, BOK Financial is making a $25,000 grant to CTP to expand the program.
Making homes healthy and safe
Next door in New Mexico, Rebuilding Together is a local, volunteer-based organization dedicated to helping low-income homeowners who need critical home repairs or accessibility modifications to accommodate a disability. These repairs are usually relatively minor but impact the safety of a home, like fixing a water heater or adding railing to staircases.
Paul Richter, credit underwriter at Bank of Albuquerque and a Rebuilding Together volunteer, got involved with the nonprofit during the Covid pandemic.
"2020 was tough for me," shared Richter. "As the restrictions stretched out, I struggled—I didn't love working from home. Then I realized there was only so much complaining I could handle and decided to try and find something positive to do instead.”
A neighbor was the president of the board of directors, and he invited Richter to join the board. He began by inviting Richter to meet a homeowner. She was deaf, and her air conditioning unit had died. “It was summer and hot as heck,” he recalled. “We got her a new one and installed it. That visit made a lot of sense to me—how this organization helps is very tangible. So, I joined the board. Now I'm treasurer and keep doing more each year."
The nonprofit only has one full-time employee and a long waitlist of homeowners needing repairs, so Paul spends much of his time helping to grow the nonprofit’s knowledge of financial processes and strategies, including more sustainable lines of funding.
"These folks are veterans, seniors, people with disabilities and inter-generational homes," said Richter. "You can probably find any sort of personal connection to the people we're helping.”
“I think we've all experienced the challenge of keeping up a home, both physically and financially. If you don't feel well or don't have savings, your home can deteriorate quickly. We have more demand than we can keep up with, so I do what I can to help.”- Paul Richter, Rebuilding Together volunteer
Both Habitat and Rebuilding Together also incorporate thrift stores to generate funds to continue helping people stay in their homes safely. Homeowners can donate gently used building goods, and shoppers can find a deal for their next DIY project, all of which allows these nonprofits to continue their good work.
"Habitat is a life-changing organization, full of people that care about the mission of helping people with affordable, safe homes," said Hyde. A haven for home improvement enthusiasts, the stores usually carry everything from cabinets to appliances to furniture.