It's Not Just One Family...

Posted by Markolline Forkpa
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As I have said before, my favorite days at Habitat are the ones where we hand over the keys to a home for a family in need, just as we are about to do for Helen and her family at 52 W. Basin Street in Norristown. For me, the moment this happens, I know this family’s life will be changed forever. I’ve seen it more than 25 times – that feeling of security that comes with a permanent home…the idea that the kids will do their homework around the same kitchen table for years to come or that they will sleep in the same bed and in the same room as they grow up. For the family getting the home, it has the greatest positive impact on their lives thus far.

It also has a tremendous positive impact for the community where the home is built or rehabbed as well. At Habitat, we talk less often about how one home impacts the community, but it is every bit as important as the impact to the new homeowner. When Habitat rehabs a home in Norristown, Pottstown, or another community, several things are triggered that not only help one family but the community at large.

First, since we typically take on the homes in the most need of rehab, they often have tax issues, physical and structural issues and have often housed too many families for their size. Habitat corrects these issues by investing in the structure, bringing it back to productive use and getting it on the tax rolls in a way that supports the community’s vital services. We are less interested in making a profit than in stabilizing a family and a community, so we often choose the homes that would be left to rot because aren’t economically feasible for an investor to repair. When complete, the added revenue of an owned home (especially when the property was previously blighted or abandoned) helps the community pay consistently for things like fire police, schools and other vital services.

Second, because it is a home for one family, rather than an apartment for many, the balance of services to the population density in the area is tipped in the municipality’s favor. Rather than four families having four sets of children enter the school district, find parking, or have trash removal, one family is using these resources and providing the appropriate tax revenue for them in return.

Third, Habitat homes improve the property values in communities that are sometimes lopsided in the real estate market. Not many people know this, but each home is appraised and registered with the county at its fair market value. Although our families pay less due to our mortgage structure, the community benefits from the higher market value.  Other homes in the area are helped in their value as well because now there is a rehabbed, energy-efficient home where a blighted or abandoned unit once stood. This investment benefits the entire neighborhood, not just the family who purchases the home.

 

These financial benefits are tremendous for a community that is under-resourced, but equally important to the community are the intangible benefits. Families who live in owner-occupied homes are involved families. They participate in the block or the neighborhood, attend and volunteer at school functions for their kids, get involved in civic life through activities like becoming block captains or sitting on community improvement committees. These families then contribute to the greater quality of life for everyone in the community. They also shop at local stores, patronize local services, work in local companies and have concern for their neighbors.  Families investing in these communities through homeownership are helping to stabilize and revitalize neighborhoods in so many ways.

Finally, Habitat homeowners are an inspiration. Their stories inspire our volunteers to keep doing this work to benefit even more families in need, thus continuing this positive community cycle.  Other families need to see that perhaps one day, they can own a home too. The hope that this program fosters is something that benefits us all, in ways that we are sometimes not aware.

So, for those of you who would like to join us Friday, October 7th at 3:30PM at 52 W. Basin Street in Norristown, I welcome you to celebrate with Helen’s family, but I also hope that you will celebrate the impact that another Habitat home and family have on your community as well.