I thought that as we go into the Holidays it is a good time to let our Habitat supporters know what is new at Habitat for Humanity for San Luis Obispo County and update you on what we are doing. So, what are we doing? Well, we started three new “programs” over the last 2 years that are helping to preserve and conserve the low income neighborhoods and housing in SLO County. Currently the County is experiencing an affordable housing crisis. There are simply not enough affordable homes or apartments to meet the needs of our low-income population. And it is not going to get better. Recent studies have shown that our populations will grow significantly over the next 15 years and we are simply not prepared for it. There are not enough houses, not enough roads, and not enough water! We are working hard to do what we can to address the critical housing situation we are in now and in the future.
How are we doing this? Five years ago Habitat for Humanity International intentionally expanded our mission and our work to include three new areas: neighborhood revitalization, home rehabilitation, and home preservation. HFHSLOCO is one of 250 affiliates in the country that have begun neighborhood revitalization in their service area. We are going into select low-income neighborhoods and creating community coalitions of residents and community partners who are willing to work together to revitalize, preserve, and stabilize their neighborhood and the affordable housing they contain. HFHSLOCO’s first NR neighborhood is the Sierra Bonita Village in Paso Robles. The Village is a senior community that contains 479 small affordable homes owned predominantly by seniors. We have created our Community Coalition and based on a survey we conducted have created an action plan that is addressing infrastructure, crime, and community connection issues in the community. Our work there is going to be highlighted in HFHI’s 2015 Neighborhood Revitalization Annual Report as a best practice! We have selected a second neighborhood in Oceano and are beginning our work to put a community coalition together.
It may seem to you that the neighborhood revitalization work is a bit out of Habitat’s usual realm, which is building homes. However, neighborhood revitalization is not a change in Habitat’s mission because community building has always been a part of what we do. When Clarence Jordan was creating Partnership Housing, (the precursor to Habitat for Humanity), he talked about building a neighborhood rather than just houses. In addition, prior to the launch of Neighborhood Revitalization, Habitat affiliates across the country were already participating in neighborhood-based partnerships as the most effective and efficient way to serve as many families as possible. Habitats vision is to revitalize neighborhoods into vibrant, safe and inviting places to live for current and future residents. Revitalization happens through the hard work of engaged citizens, partnerships with civic and business groups and a renewed community spirit.
Habitat for Humanity for San Luis Obispo County also launched its Home Preservation work 2 years ago. Our Home Preservation program provides painting, landscaping, and minor repair services for homeowners in need. It helps low-income homeowners reclaim their homes. Most important, our Home Preservation program is part of Habitat’s broader neighborhood revitalization strategy, a holistic approach that assists and stabilizes communities as well as families. It revitalizes the appearance of the neighborhood and strengthens connections within the community. Our Home Preservation program is about restoring neighborhoods one home at a time through simple acts of kindness. In the last year and a half we have completed 12 home preservation projects and there are 3 pending.
This year we also launched our Home Rehabilitation program. The scarcity of affordable building land, the cuts in affordable housing funding, and the need to serve more families while conserving assets and revitalizing our County’s aging neighborhoods has sparked a newfound interest in rehabilitating existing homes. HFHSLOCO has become a part of a new movement to expand Habitat’s capacity to help those in need of a safe and decent place to live. Our light is shining brighter as our work serving those in need is restoring hope and dignity to their lives. Homeowners wishing to apply to HFHSLOCO’s Home Rehabilitation Program must have incomes between 30% and 80% of the county median income, and are selected based on their need for the home rehabilitation, the ability to pay a Habitat deed restricted loan, and a willingness to complete the required hours of sweat equity labor toward rehabilitation of their homes. The deed restricted loan the homeowner will enter into with HFHSLOCO for the work is for a 20-40 year fixed period, are 0% interest, and are structured to ensure that homeowners pay no more than 30% of their gross monthly income for housing. Loans for a home rehabilitation project are capped at approximately $45,000.
To add to our work, we recently launched an Aging in Place program through which we are doing safety and security inspections in homes owned by seniors. In this way we are making sure there are no trip hazards, grab bars and low-level CO detectors installed, and their furnaces serviced so that our seniors are living in their homes safely and without risk.
While I have not mentioned new home construction, we are currently in discussions with the City of Paso Robles about the feasibility of going forward with our 9 home build which was stopped due to the high cost of construction and other fees imposed by the City. We also have property in the City of Arroyo Grande on which we hope to build 8 more new affordable homes.
As you can see there is much going on at HFHSLOCO with regard to construction and community building. Thank you for continuing to support our work. Thank you for helping to make our mission a reality and for helping to make a difference. And thank you from the people we are serving. I hope to see you in the future at one of our builds, on a committee, or in one of our ReStores. We cannot do what we do without the community of support you are part of!
Julia K. Ogden
Chief Executive Officer