By Becky Lucas
The issue of home affordability touches everyone in our community. No group, however, is more adversely impacted by the shortage of affordable and available housing than female-headed households.
Every day at Habitat for Humanity, mothers and grandmothers walk through our doors looking for an opportunity to build a better life for their children. They’re not asking for a handout and they don’t want a free home – they simply want a bit of hope.
Empowering women and empowering families are central to our goal of breaking the cycle of poverty through affordable homeownership. However, current gender disparities in housing illustrate that the issue of home affordability is also a women’s issue. Today in America, 35% of single mothers live below the poverty line. Often, the high cost of housing forces them to sacrifice spending on basic necessities, including medical care, quality food and reliable transportation.
With the median rent in Lee County approaching $1,200 per month, a single mother would have to earn an annual wage of at least $43,200 to afford a modest, two-bedroom apartment. This figure is significantly greater than the entry-level wages for many careers that are historically female-dominated positions, like teachers, nursing assistants, medical technicians, government employees and service industry workers. As increases in the cost of housing continue to far outpace wage growth, it’s evident that decisive action is required to mitigate our community’s housing challenges. It’s going to take all of us coming together and declaring that home affordability is a top priority for women, families and everyone in search of an affordable home.
March is always a special month for Habitat, but this one is particularly significant. On March 5, Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties celebrated a milestone by kicking off its 10th annual Women Build Campaign at the Heitman House in downtown Fort Myers. Over the past decade, the campaign has galvanized hundreds of local women to join forces in raising funds and building homes for strong, independent, female-headed households. Through Women Build, Habitat has partnered with mothers of disabled children, women who’ve escaped violent partners, grandmothers raising their grandchildren and recent widows to make homeownership a reality for 20 women and their 50 children.
This year, our Women Build sponsors, donors and volunteers are striving to build and fully fund three additional Habitat for Humanity homes for hardworking, single mothers in Southwest Florida.
To learn how you can become involved with the Women Build Campaign, please visit habitat4humanity.org/womenbuild or call 239-652-0434.