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Hello and welcome to the virtual Cost of Home Discussion on Women and Housing. Thank you for joining us today! My name is Jessica Hubbs. I am the Corporate and Foundation Relations Specialist here at Habitat for Humanity of Burlington and Mercer Counties and I will be your guide through this presentation today. You can find the full transcript to this presentation and links to resources by visiting our website at www.habitatscnj.org
Before we begin, I’d like to give a big shout out to our Women Build Champions and event Sponsor of Lowe’s. You can support your favorite Champions by visiting their peer to peer fundraising pages and help us build brighter futures for families in need.
Today’s presentation will touch on our Women Build event, The Cost of Home Advocacy Campaign, some of the challenges women in our community face, how Habitat BMC serves women and the outcomes of our programs, as well as policies that support housing equity and home affordability. Let’s get started!
This presentation is a part of Women Build – a weeklong event put on by Habitat for Humanity. Since 2008, Habitat has partnered with Lowe’s to raise awareness of the challenges women face in accessing safe, affordable housing. Together, Habitats from all over with the help of Lowe’s Heroes have built and repaired nearly 6000 homes for families in need, and this year Women Build activities are taking place in 44 states across the county.
You can find more information on our website as well as through our socials @HabitatBMC.
Cost of Home is a 5-year advocacy campaign that aims to mobilize local Habitat organizations, partners, volunteers, and community members to find solutions and help create policies that will allow 10 million individuals nationwide meet their most basic needs. At Habitat BMC, we believe that everyone deserves to build the foundation for a stable, healthy future for themselves and their families — no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they earn. Every family deserves the chance to thrive. Through this presentation we hope you will not just learn about the housing needs of women in our community, but that it will light a fire within you and you will join us in our efforts to make the cost of home something we can all afford.
Just what is the cost of home? Families all across the United States are paying too high a price to cover the cost of home and New Jersey is no exception. NJ has the 7th highest housing costs in the country and 1 in 6 households are spending half OR MORE of their income on housing.
New Jersians were facing these challenges well before the coronavirus pandemic. 21 of the largest occupations in the state pay less than the wage needed to afford a 2-bedroom home at Fair Market Rent. You can see on this table here from the Out of Reach study in 2020 that no one working at the mean renter wage in New Jersey, nor within in our service area, can afford a two-bedroom apartment working only 40 hours a week. Looking further, these residents also struggle to afford just a 1 bedroom apartment, and anyone earning minimum wage must hold over 2 full time positions to afford the same level of housing.
Now, as the as the significant impacts of COVID-19 continue to unfold, the number of families struggling to make ends meet is only growing. This means that even more families are being denied the personal and economic stability that safe, decent and affordable housing provides. Instead, more and more families are forced to make impossible choices.
Take a look at the United Way Survival Budget for families in New Jersey. Listed in the budget are key physiological needs – a safe home, nutritious food, health care, access to good schools, reliable transportation…would you be able to choose which to provide your family if your income did not cover all the costs?
We know the issue of affordable housing is complex. We also know the struggle, stress and pain of far too many families in our communities. Families who have suffered from redlining, racial inequality and the housing disparities that follow. Families who have worked hard and still come up short, not because of their own efforts but because of systemic issues and an inequitable economy. We know that those with the fewest resources are always the ones who are forced to make the hardest choices. Most prevalently among them are women.
According to the National Women’s Law Center, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost in December 2020 and have suffered the majority of pandemic-related job loss, accounting for 55% of the 9.8 million jobs lost since last February. In NJ, the annual gender wage gap is over $14,000 on average when comparing all women and all men working full time, year-round. You can see how this, among other factors, affects the number of female-headed households who are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed (also known as ALICE) – living just one emergency away from a financial crisis. For women of color, these disparities are amplified – watch how the graphic changes when looking at ALICE households as a whole, for single-female households, Black and African American households, and Hispanic and Latine households.
Even when women achieve homeownership, they continue to face challenges. The National Association of Realtors show that single-women make up 19% of first-time homebuyers and 17% of repeat homebuyers. Yet, a study by the Urban Institute showed women not only pay more for mortgages, but they also experience higher rates of subprime lending and are more likely to be denied a mortgage even though they demonstrate better performance of paying off loans. Furthermore, the value of women-owned homes is, on average, 10% less than those of men. It’s also important to note that more than a third of women only homeowners are women of color – half of which are living in low-income communities.
I’m sure hearing this information might be preaching to the choir, or so overwhelming that you’re thinking “how can we possibly fix this?” I promise you, that all is not lost.
Habitat for Humanity is working to address these inequities on an individual level as well as through policy advocacy. With our affordable homeownership program, we sell homes with 20-30 year mortgages at 0% interest and we make sure families pay no more than 30% of their household income on their mortgage – and that’s including principal, taxes, and insurance. AHP serves every kind of family, but as we’ve seen with previous slides – female-headed households have among some of the highest in need for affordable housing opportunities. And it shows, as over the last five years alone, nearly three-fourths (72%) of the new, affordable homes we built were sold to single women.
The Affordable Homeownership Program is no easy feat. Before they purchase their homes, our partner families go through rigorous homeowner preparation. They receive one on one mentorships that help them review their budgets, attend financial classes to learn how to save and reduce debt, meet with credit counselors, gain resume writing and job interview skills, learn how to fix and maintain items in their homes, and even go through homeowner insurance policies and home buying closing procedures before to taking them on as new homeowners.
Through this program, our partner families’ credit scores increase by 100 points on average, and last year alone, our cohort of families collectively saved $23,655 and reduced debt by $10,185. Some of our partner families who will purchase homes this year from left to right are Shanika, Tasha, Wanda, and Christina.
In addition to homeownership opportunities, Habitat BMC repairs homes for local homeowners, completing projects that range from minor, exterior like weatherization, painting, and landscaping to major critical projects like roofing. This service assists families in sheltering in place and allows them to adapt to the ever-changing needs for remote work and school in safe, accessible, efficient homes.
Of our total Neighborhood Revitalization projects completed to date, single women homeowners make up just over half (52%) of families served. If you’ve been following along this week, our women build volunteers are completing 2 full house paint projects across the street from one another in Mt. Holly.
Our work at Habitat goes beyond providing a roof over someone’s head. In particular with homeownership, our program helps family stabilize finances, build equity, and create generational wealth that gives parents and children the secure foundation to achieve anything.
It should go without saying that Habitat Homeowners are a special group of people. They don’t follow market trends, which says the average life of a mortgage is currently 6 years. No, when our partner families buy a house, they make it home. Like Domica, pictured here, who bought her home in Burlington back in 2005. She raised her family, experience life changes with school and jobs, and in 14 years she paid off her affordable mortgage. She even received some minor rejuvenating repair work around her home as one of our first Neighborhood Revitalization projects back in 2018 when we were starting the program.
Along with our programs, Habitat advocates for policies that address housing needs on a local, state and federal level. Some examples of measures that we support include the HOME Investment Partnership Program (federal), Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (federal), The Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and amending homebuyer down payment assistance allow funding to offset property taxes (NJ).
HOME is a federally funded program that Habitat has been able to benefit from and build 6 new homes in beautiful, rural Springfield. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund was recently restored in FY2020 by Governor Murphy. It allows the development of housing projects to support stronger, fairer, more affordable communities. Through this program, we have plans to build 10 new affordable homes in Bordentown. For proposed policies, we support NHIA which revitalizes distressed neighborhoods by using federal income tax credits to mobilize private investment to build and substantially rehabilitate homes for low- and moderate-income homeowners. We also support first-time homebuyers programs allowing funding to go towards offsetting property taxes in addition to home price.
It’s clear to see how crucial investments in housing affordability are during this time, and congress can address some of these needs through their Covid-19 relief, economic recovery, and infrastructure measures. You can help by raising your voice and tell Congress that there’s no time to waste – we need our representatives and senators to prioritize foreclosure prevention, neighborhood revitalization, and affordable housing production now.
Get started by contacting your local legislators today. https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/members/legsearch.asp
If you are interested in getting involved but not sure where to start feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I can provide you with Cost of Home resources, policy summaries, and talking points you can use as a basis of your communications. We encourage you personalize your messages and send it in the mail, say it over the phone, and post about it on your socials. Be sure to tag us in your awesome advocacy work with @HabitatBMC and #CostofHome
This concludes our presentation for today. Thank you again for joining us for our Cost of Home Discussion on Women and Housing.