As the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic downturn create unprecedented levels of housing instability for low and moderate-income families throughout Southwest Florida, Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties remains steadfast in their commitment to expanding home affordability across the broader housing continuum.
“Now, more than ever, low and moderate-income families need affordable housing—whether that’s through Habitat’s affordable homeownership program or increased availability of affordable rental units,” said Habitat’s Chief Operational Officer, Tanya Soholt.
Currently, Lee County faces a severe shortage of affordable and available housing units, forcing more than 52,000 households to spend over half their limited income on a place to live. “These families were already just one missed paycheck or medical emergency away from financial ruin, and now, they’re facing the brunt of the economic hardships associated with COVID-19.”
But Soholt contends that affordable housing and specifically Habitat for Humanity’s affordable homeownership program is crucial to stabilizing families by promoting resiliency. “When families are empowered to cover their housing costs, afford basic necessities, and save for an emergency—it fosters a sense of personal and economic resiliency.”
According to homeowners, the affordable mortgages provided by Habitat for Humanity have made the recent economic downturn manageable.
When Habitat homeowner, Sherri, lost her job due to COVID-19, she used her savings to cover living expenses while searching for new employment. “I was really concerned about finding a new job during the pandemic, but I tried not to think about it. I just focused on the goal at hand and worked to achieve it.”
Today, Sherri is gainfully employed but remains thankful for the economic stability that affordable homeownership provided for her and other working families. “I am extremely grateful that we have a safe, clean, and affordable place where my kids feel stable,” she said.
Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties is proud of their homeowners; however, they recognize that many more families in Southwest Florida need housing help.
“We have partnered with more than 1,750 families in Lee and Hendry Counties, helping them achieve personal stability and build economic resiliency. But the reality is Habitat cannot do it alone. To solve our affordable housing challenges, we need additional support from our community members; our elected officials must prioritize increasing home affordability; the media should continue spotlighting the housing realities facing Southwest Florida’s working families, and together we can make quality, affordable housing a reality for everyone in our community,” said Soholt.