WAKE COUNTY, N.C. — High construction costs mean fewer affordable homes are available for families this year.
Habitat for Humanity Wake County typically builds 50 affordable homes during their fiscal year. From July 2020 to June 2021, the nonprofit had to scale that number back to 40 homes because each one cost up to an additional $35,000 to build.
"It hits builders all over," said Brad McHugh, the VP of Construction for Habitat Wake. "But for us as a nonprofit, where we rely so heavily on volunteer labor to keep our costs low and donations of products... that's been almost impossible right now."
The demand in the housing market is contributing to the increase in construction material costs. Habitat for Humanity Wake County is used to having 20 or more volunteers on each construction site working to build homes, but the pandemic has made their usual volunteer presence unsafe. McHugh says they have had to hire outside contractors to do the work instead.
"If we're not able to build as many homes or it takes us longer to build these houses, those families who are in vulnerable situations right now, that don't have safe places to live through something like this pandemic, they feel that," McHugh said. "They're spending more of their take home salary, over 30% of that, on whatever rental situation they might be in and that's not earning equity for them, that's not stability."
The nonprofit is absorbing the extra cost to build these homes because their homeowners only have to pay up to 30% of their take home salary with the mortgage based on the home's appraised value.
Habitat for Humanity Wake reports that one in four families in our community are paying too much towards housing at the expense of other necessities like groceries, health care and education.
It's a group McHugh plans to get back to helping in their usual numbers this upcoming fiscal year, especially with volunteers coming back.
"We're still very excited we were able to get 40 new families into new homes this year, and hopefully 50 next year and just continue to grow," McHugh said. "With the need of affordable housing not going away any time soon, we continue to project over the next three to five years, you know, how can we end up serving 100 families a year or more."
In addition to new construction, Habitat Wake has a Home Preservation program. Through this program the nonprofit partners with existing homeowners who can't afford to complete necessary home repairs.
Habitat Wake is always looking for more people to apply to become a homeowner.
"We find that a lot of people may not realize that they qualify for Habitat homes," McHugh said.
Teachers, first responders, service workers and anyone who is renting and paying more than 30% of their take home salary and seeking stability can apply here.