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Thursday, Aug 11, 2022

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles: Building Homes, Communities and Hope

For over 30 years Habitat for Humanity of Greater Los Angeles (Habitat LA) has been fulfilling dreams in partnership with low-income individuals and families by building, rehabilitating, and repairing more than 1,000 homes in neighborhoods across greater Los Angeles.

Los Angeles County ranks as one of the least affordable housing areas in the U.S., and yet Habitat for Humanity is one of the few – if not only – affordable homeownership programs that serves families and individuals earning 50-120% of the median family income. Thanks to a collaborative approach with both local and national corporations, as well as congregations, foundations, and individuals, Habitat LA is addressing this housing crisis in a significant way. Through these partnerships, Habitat LA is increasing Los Angeles County’s affordable housing stock, while transforming communities and helping families build strength, stability, and self-reliance.

Habitat LA’s homeownership program is designed to assist low-income first-time homebuyers achieve the American dream of homeownership. The organization constructs sustainably built new homes in partnership with qualified homebuyers. Habitat LA sells its homes to low-income individuals at no profit, helping them leverage their purchase with affordable loans provided by Habitat LA and partner institutions. In addition to a small down payment and a modest monthly mortgage, the homebuyers invest sweat equity hours building their future Habitat home and the homes of other homebuyers, as well as complete mandatory pre- and post-homeownership counseling to ensure long-term success.

One of the fastest-growing age groups nationwide is 65 and older. The troubling reality is that many older adults are living in homes that are in disrepair or inadequate for their needs. There are also many families in our community who have a household member with limited mobility. Habitat LA applicants may have a child in a wheelchair or a service member who has become disabled, and due to their income, find it incredibly difficult to secure affordable housing that is also accessible. And for many families, the cost to modify a home is beyond their financial capacity.

Habitat LA’s Home Preservation Program assists these homeowners by providing modifications such as widened hallways, updated flooring, access ramps and grab bars, and walk-in showers. Because of these improvements, household members can move around safely, and avoid accidents and injuries that can be made worse by age, illness, or impaired mobility.

Habitat LA envisions a world where every person has a decent place to live. Since its inception, it has provided equitable access to homeownership for people of all races and ethnicities. Habitat LA is intentional about bridging the racial homeownership gap that exists in our country. Towards that end, Habitat LA provides Pathways to Homeownership courses and HUD-certified housing counseling for pre-purchase housing counseling. The Family Investment Program assists homeowners with post-purchase classes in financial planning and resources to provide for routine maintenance of their home and long-term financial goals. One-on-one personalized counseling sessions provide families with additional guidance, helping them set personalized goals, action plans and budgets for long term success. Finally, Habitat LA’s in-house team of REALTORS and Mortgage Loan Originators assists these families with down payment assistance loans to purchase their first home.

Habitat LA’s Neighborhood Revitalization program was launched nearly 10 years ago to address two interconnected problems in greater Los Angeles — the persistent lack of affordable housing and the disinvestment in neighborhood infrastructure that has eroded the stability of communities throughout its service area.

The overarching goal of neighborhood revitalization is an improved quality of life for residents. Through Habitat LA’s Neighborhood Revitalization program, the organization is currently partnering with residents, corporations, community stakeholders, and other non-profit agencies to help transform Long Beach’s Washington Neighborhood. Because of a shared commitment to community transformation, this dense and under resourced community is becoming stronger and more cohesive. Residents are taking the lead in envisioning their community’s future, and by participating in leadership, advocacy, and financial literacy trainings, and creating around “pride in place” celebrations like Dia de Los Muertos and a Black History Education caravan, the Habitat LA team sees a strength and resilience that is inspiring! Alongside these resident-led activities, Habitat LA continues to build and repair homes in the Washington Neighborhood, recently raising the first walls of a new 10 home development in the heart of the community, with plans to break ground on an additional 36 homes in the neighborhood.

In response to the pandemic, Habitat LA launched a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund with the intention to provide much needed personal protection equipment to frontline workers and nonprofit agencies. But as the economic effects of the pandemic took root, the relief strategy evolved to address the additional needs Habitat LA witnessed in the community.

In addition to distributing more than one million pieces of PPE to frontline and emergency workers since the onset of the pandemic, Habitat LA’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief fund has provided nearly 2,100 local families with direct financial and material support. Because of the generosity of many corporations, foundations, congregations and individuals, Habitat LA has provided more than 1,300 gift cards for groceries and basic needs, close to 300 baskets of household supplies to help keep families safe, 1,100 technology kits to kids struggling to navigate the world of online learning, more than 10,000 meals to home bound residents, and mortgage and rental assistance to nearly 70 low-income households struggling to stay in their homes. Donors also helped Habitat LA provide 50 families with a wholesome Thanksgiving dinner, and an additional 50 families with holiday baskets and gift cards during the month of December, as well as 145 baskets of toys to low-income families within the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Since 2004, Habitat LA’s independently operated ReStores and donation centers have served the Greater Los Angeles community, providing low-cost furniture, home goods and other items to the general public at 30-70% off retail. Habitat LA operates three physical locations – in Bellflower, Torrance and Los Angeles – as well as an online store at shoplarestore.org.  Proceeds from the ReStore sales go towards building, rehabilitating and repairing Habitat LA homes.  

Donating overstock and gently used products to the Habitat LA ReStores allows local businesses to liquidate surplus inventory, putting it back into the community for use, not in local landfills. All donations are tax-deductible and brand-new items can be deducted at full retail value. In addition, corporate donors will be supporting a community-based nonprofit that provides an array of housing solutions throughout greater Los Angeles.

Learn more at habitatla.org.

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