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Kansas City Habitat For Humanity Joins National Push For Affordable Housing

Laura Ziegler
KCUR 89.3
Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City and other chapters around the nation are participating in #CostofHome campaign.

Eugenia Houston stands among a couple dozen blue-T-shirted Habitat for Humanityvolunteers with hammers and buzz saws working on a new home  just off 27th and Quindaro in Kansas City, Kansas.

She lives in an adjacent home that Habitat built six years ago. It’s got a neat, grassy lawn with flowers on the edge and a front porch where she can sit to enjoy them. For the five years she's lived here, she says, she’s been able to raise her six children with the security of a home she can afford.

“My youngest graduated from Sumner (Academy of Arts and Sciences) a few (weeks) ago," she says. “I’ve seen my children be completely prepared knowing they have a stable roof over their head and utility bills their mother can pay.”

Success stories like Houston's are important to the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity, which held a press conference in Houston's neighborhood Wednesday to announce it was joining a “Cost of Home” initiative sponsored by the national Habitat for Humanity organization.

The campaign has the lofty goal of securing affordable housing for 10 million people over the next five years, mirroring the smaller-scale initiative on the docket in Kansas City, Missouri, to provide 5,000 affordable homes in the next five years.

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Eugenia Houston's home was built by Habitat for Humanity. She's delighted the non-profit is building another one next door.

Pat Turner, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Kanass City, says the organization works in six counties across the metro and with both Kansas City municipalities. More than 12,000 volunteers contribute time every year. She says each home takes between 500 and 2,000 hours to renovate or build. The organization works with private partners and subcontractors who take care of services out of the range of volunteers such as electrical and plumbing. Families are selected for homes based on need. They get a 0% mortgage with a customized arrangement to pay it back over 20 or 30 years.

An increasing number of people in the Metro  are paying more than the federally recommended30% of their income for housing. Turner says the Kansas City Habitat chapter is embracing this challenge.

Credit Laura Ziegler / KCUR 89.3
KCUR 89.3
Pat Turner, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Kansas City, says while still more affordable than many places, Kansas City is becoming less so.

“There is a lack of affordable housing on both sides of the state line,” she says. “We are trying to create a space to increase affordability in our area."

From renting to homeownership

Before she moved here, Houston says, she rented a drafty, roach-infested home for $650 a month. The landlord was inattentive, she says.

“You could look outside through the window cracks,” Houston says. "There was no insulation and all kinds of problems with that house."

Today, three of her six kids are still at home. She says one has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. This makes her especially grateful for the security of a home, a home where her mortage is $200 less than she was paying for rent. 

"It was so simple," she says. "You fill out the application. You do 350 (mandatory) volunteer hours on your home. You go through classes about managing your money and everything you need to know if you're owning a home."

What's most reassuring, she says, is knowing her children will have a home if something happens to her.

Laura Ziegler is a community engagement reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on twitter @laurazig or by email at lauraz@kcur.org

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions.
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