In this new year, the phrase “20/20 vision” takes on a special meaning for Habitat as we greet the new decade with hope, anticipation, and innovation. Habitat’s Strategic Planning Committee, part of our Board of Directors, has for the last 5 years focused on answering critical questions about how we can best fulfill the Habitat Mission while being faithful stewards of the gifts we’re given.
There are many pressing questions to answer. How do we keep Habitat homes affordable, not only at time of purchase by our partner families, but also in operating and maintenance costs far into the future? How can we meaningfully impact the local housing crisis, not only by serving more of our neighbors, but also by aligning resources to take advantage of what our generous community provides? How do we build homes using building techniques and materials that have a positive environmental impact?
Our answer to many of these important questions is The Telegraph Townhome community, which will provide 50+ new homes by the end of the new decade. This flagship project represents the Habitat Board’s vision, and we’re testing ourselves and our ideas as the Telegraph project becomes a reality. The first 8 partner families will move in this spring!
Our Habitat homes will be more affordable than ever, even though they may cost more to build. We’re investing in building “net-zero-ready” and “solar-ready” homes, which means that the savings in heating and maintenance costs will exceed the additional monthly mortgage costs by a factor of 3:1. This puts extra cash into each homeowner’s pocket to be used for other expenses, such as education and healthcare.
We’ve also been able to increase our building program five-fold because the community continues to partner with us in providing new resources and innovative ways of thinking about traditional home financing.
The most innovative change has been in our access to low-cost capital. The Whatcom Community Foundation and Whatcom Educational Credit Union (WECU) have generously made available project financing with no profit added, saving Habitat tens of thousands of dollars in interest charges.
Local building contractors have also joined with us, volunteering their technical skills or providing their services at cost (we’ve profiled some of these Habitat Champions in this Newsletter). As the Telegraph Townhomes Project develops phase by phase, these in-kind and at-cost gifts of materials and services expand the definition of “one-time gifts.” These become the gifts of sustainable homes for years to come.
As climate change continues to be an urgent matter that affects all of us, Habitat’s vision must extend into future decades. We’re working to understand the carbon impact of everything we do, from our construction techniques to the materials we use, including how those materials are created and how far they must travel to get to our building sites.
Our work has become so much more than just building homes and lifting one family at a time out of substandard housing. Our work must focus on how what we do impacts the wider community. It’s about providing lasting approaches and solutions to the current housing crisis. It’s about stewardship of our precious and finite environment.
If you share our “2020 vision,” please consider joining us. Every hand and every heart makes a difference.
John Moon, Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity in Whatcom County
[Every cash gift we receive at Habitat, no matter how small, returns when each Habitat home buyer makes their monthly mortgage payments. This enables us to purchase more supplies for more homes. Habitat’s core value, “a hand-up, not a hand-out,” means that every penny is repaid. Please consider pledging $5 per month.]