Scanning the list of the Top 10 U.S. home builders in 2009, the one name that jumps right off the page is Habitat for Humanity.
Habitat is becoming increasingly well known for building decent, affordable homes for working poor families using volunteer labour, including the “sweat equity” of the eventual homeowners. If you think of an old-fashioned barn raising, that’s kind of how Habitat operates its homebuilding operations.
Turns out Habitat raised a lot of homes in the U.S. last year -- 5,294 to be exact -- good enough to move up from 11th to eighth place on the list of top U.S. homebuilders. Considering the construction model, which relies largely on donated labour, the fact that Habitat is delivering 20 homes per working day in the U.S. is truly remarkable.
A little closer to home, the Toronto affiliate of Habitat for Humanity delivered 89 decent, affordable homes last year and, with the recent ground-breaking on a 29-unit project in the City’s east end, is off to a great start this year.
As a title home donor, I had the honour of representing our association at the ground-breaking. The event was kicked-off by Habitat Toronto’s CEO, Neil Hetherington. Hetherington’s a great leader — you have to be to get 89 affordable homes built at the peak of the global financial crisis.
Speaking on behalf of the 29 partner families who will eventually live in this latest Habitat development, Antonio Garcia described the “awesome” feeling he had when informed that his family had been chosen as a Habitat homeowner.
Garcia’s family of five currently lives in a crowded, two-bedroom apartment in a rough neighbourhood. Desperate for a way to ensure his kids were not exposed to the bad elements, he approached Habitat and was ecstatic to be approved and have the opportunity to live in a clean and safe place. “I found the place where happiness is,” Garcia said in his clearly heartfelt remarks.
Garcia’s comments are what makes Habitat groundbreakings such “moving” events, literally and figuratively. I am immensely proud of BILD's community partnership with Habitat for Humanity Toronto, a relationship which is apropos considering our mutual interest in affordable homeownership.
– Stephen Dupuis is president and CEO of the Building Industry and Land Development Association (BILD). He can be reached at email@example.com.