During Greensboro’s city council meeting on Feb. 21, councilmembers unanimously voted to support Habitat for Humanity’s community-housing project that will build close to three dozen homes in East Greensboro using $1 million in funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. 

Council previously voted on the item during a Jan. 3 city council meeting, however, because the ordinance was adopted with a 5-4 vote, it required a second reading for council consideration. Mayor Nancy Vaughan, Zack Matheny, Tammi Thurm, Nancy Hoffmann and Marikay Abuzuaiter had voted in favor. 

The original amount of funding for the organization was set to be $1.5 million, however $500,000 was set aside so the city can invest in more minority-owned businesses.

David Kolosieke, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro, told the council that the organization has been providing housing opportunities in the area for the last 35 years, “primarily on the East Side of Greensboro.” Kolosieke added that the organization has provided that opportunity for more than 500 families locally. 

According to Christine Byrd, director of development and communications for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro, 32 homes will be built across Districts 1 and 2, and the goal is to complete the projects by the end of 2026.

Habitat for Humanity has already added homes to areas in East Greensboro. 

“We are actively building right now in Willow Oaks and White Oak Heights,” Byrd said. 

The two neighborhoods are located in District 1 and District 2, respectively. Byrd said that while the final decision has not yet been made on where the homes will be built, these two locations “may give some indication of the areas in those districts that we will be building in.” 

A statement on the organization’s website said that they built 13 homes in Willow Oaks between 2010 and 2013, noting, “As was the case for many of the neighborhoods in East Greensboro, these areas suffered from a lack of investment due to historic, discriminatory redlining practices.” 

According to the US Census Bureau, the median household income for Greensboro is $51,667. 

The historic lack of investment in East Greensboro, where the population is majority-minority, has left the area at a disadvantage compared to other communities in the city. According to a comprehensive study conducted by Red Rock Global and Colliers International in 2011, the area suffered from highest population density, lowest projected population growth, highest poverty rates, and largest decrease in homeownership compared to all other areas in the city. The recent move by council and the efforts of organizations like Habitat for Humanity are an effort to combat these systemic issues.

In April 2018 the city was hit by a tornado that damaged more than 1,000 of its homes and buildings, devastating the eastern part of the city in particular. Habitat for Humanity is one of the organizations in the community that has helped repair and rebuild in the years following the disaster.

“We build safe and affordable [housing], but that’s not all we do,” Kolosieke told the council during the Feb. 21 meeting.

 “We provide the supportive services to those individuals in the application process, during the build of that house, and for the entire life of the mortgage, which we hold for those homeowners,” he said.

Habitat for Humanity home in progress (courtesy photo)

Habitat for Humanity is bound by guidelines set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in terms of the individuals they partner with, Byrd said, adding that prospective homeowners “have to fall between 30-80 percent of the area median income.”

Byrd added that this is “based on the Greensboro metro, not down to the specific census tracker zip code area.”

Habitat for Humanity’s homes are typically constructed in about six months according to Byrd. The organization’s homeowner selection is managed at the local level. If selected, homeowners enter into a partnership with Habitat for Humanity which includes performing “sweat equity:” helping to build their own home or the homes of others. They can also take homeownership classes or perform volunteer work in a Habitat ReStore. “Our program participants are typically in the program for about 12 [months] because one of the key parts of our program is the education component,” Byrd said, adding that when participants are accepted into the program, they start their homeownership and budgeting classes. They also make the selections on their home, like the “lot, floorplan, finishes.” The construction on the home is started while participants continue their classes. Finally, they will close on their new home before moving in and having a dedication ceremony.

Byrd said that land availability is a major deciding factor of where the homes are built, as well as access to resources. Other factors like access to transportation and other necessities are weighed as well.

“Is there a nearby grocery store?” Byrd asked, adding that they want to make sure they don’t build in a food desert.

Kolosieke noted during the Feb. 21 meeting that the organization just dedicated their fifth home in the Lincoln Heights community, one of the areas that was hit hardest by the tornado. 

Last November, Habitat for Humanity dedicated a home for a mother and her daughter, the third home built by the organization in the Lincoln Heights community, 

At the dedication, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer Ruthie Richardson-Robinson commented on the importance of homeownership in marginalized communities.

“Homeownership, a lot of people think it’s a dream, but it is possible,” Richardson-Robinson said. “And it’s through programs like this that we’re able to help Katisha and help others who may be looking for their forever home.”

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