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Home is the Key

All families need the security and stability of a decent home they can afford. Every year in April, to bring awareness to the struggles that so many families face because of a lack of affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity presents Home is the Key.

Home is the Key is a partnership campaign between Habitat and their ReStores. Many ReStore shoppers don’t understand the connection between the store and Habitat’s mission, or what Habitat’s mission even is. I’ll explain more about our mission and what we do in Jackson below. But first…

We want to invite you to stop into the ReStore on Prospect St. in Jackson during April!

Especially if you haven’t been there in a while, you’ll notice it’s like a new store… every day. We receive awesome donations from individuals and businesses of things like furniture, lighting, hardware (new and used), building supplies, area rugs (new), cabinets, doors, and so much more. The revenue earned from the sale of these donations helps us provide the opportunity of homeownership to families in Jackson.

While you’re in the store, you’ll have the opportunity to make a $1, $5, or $20 (or any amount) donation to Home is the Key. We’ll be doing exciting things throughout the month like drawings to win great prizes and heavy discounts for shopping. Sign up here to stay up to date on all the fun!

Now, on to explaining Habitat’s mission and how it impacts Jackson. First, let’s look at some data.

Status of Affordable Housing in Jackson, Michigan

If you’ve ever had a mortgage, you probably understand that the accepted standard of debt-to-income ratio for housing expenses is 30%. This means that the total monthly house payment, including taxes and insurance, should cost no more than 30% of gross monthly income. Paying more than this amount is considered “cost-burdened” for housing.

In Jackson, over 7,000 households pay more than 30% of their monthly income on a place to live. Approximately 26% of households who rent in Jackson County are cost-burdened, and the majority of those are paying more than 50% on a place to live (severely cost-burdened).

We know that to be able to afford a market-rate rental in Jackson, a household would need an income of approximately $36,000 annually. That equals roughly $17.31/hr., which is nearly double the minimum wage. The median income in the city of Jackson is $35,464, and 28% of people live below that level.

There simply aren’t enough housing units in Jackson in a modest price range for people with a low-to-moderate income to afford.

How Does Habitat Help?

Many renters would be great homeowners if given the chance. A mortgage payment is usually cheaper than rent for a similar house. The current barriers for renters moving toward homeownership are:

  • Lack of a down payment

  • Not being able to deal with credit issues due to not having enough money left over after living expenses to put toward credit repair

  • Not enough houses on the market in the modest price range

Habitat’s Homebuyer Program gives people the tools they need to get ready to purchase a house. Applicants are matched with a HUD-certified financial counselor who works one on one with them. They work on budgeting, credit, and setting financial goals. In addition, applicants are taught what it means to purchase a home; from how to get a mortgage to tackling the responsibility of taking care of the asset.

Once an applicant is ready to apply for a mortgage, we talk to them about their choices. They can look at the houses we’re building and choose to buy one of them if there’s one available. Or they can choose to look at houses on the market and work with a realtor and lender to purchase a home with an affordable mortgage.

If they choose to purchase a Habitat home, they become a Habitat Partner Family and begin working alongside volunteers to help build their house. Once the house is complete, they purchase it from Habitat with an affordable mortgage.

Why Does it Matter?

Not only is a mortgage payment often more affordable than rent, but homeownership also provides stability for families. It provides dignity, which in turn causes them to take pride in caring for their home, which can help to greatly improve neighborhoods.

Stable, affordable housing also means more resources and energy to focus on other things that matter, like sourcing and even growing healthy food, improving personal health, proper education, and giving back to the community. Housing is the foundation of a better life for families. Without it, families cannot thrive.

How Can You Help?

For-profit developers are not building modest-price houses. The cost to build would cause them to be upside down in their investment. It doesn’t make economic sense.

For Habitat for Humanity to continue building modest, affordable homes for low-to-moderate-income families, we need assistance from individuals, businesses, and the government. Our builds can be subsidized by government and private grants, as well as donations from individuals, businesses, and foundations in our community. This helps with the barrier mentioned above of not having enough modest-price houses on the market.

The obstacle of not having a down payment is also tackled by Habitat, through assisting the buyer in obtaining down payment assistance grants, along with securing mortgages that offer low or no down payment requirements.

Even with grants and donations to help with these challenges, gaps often remain between the cost to build, the appraised value of the home, and the amount of the affordable mortgage for the buyer. We need a constant flow of funding to help fill those gaps and make the dream of homeownership obtainable for our Habitat Partner Families.

You can support this work in so many ways. Here are a few:

  • Shop at the ReStore

  • Make a $1, $5, or $20 donation to Home is the Key while you’re at the ReStore or online here (in April only).

  • Donate items from home you no longer need to the ReStore

  • Volunteer regularly. We need volunteers to help on our construction sites and in the ReStore.

  • Donate money to support a build. You can mail a check to 251 W. Prospect, Jackson, MI 49203, or donate online here.

  • Participate in a fundraiser for Habitat (register here to stay updated on upcoming events)

We believe everyone deserves a safe, decent, affordable place to call home. And it takes everyone to make it happen. Every hand and every dollar make a difference.