Building wealth, one homeowner at a time

May 28, 2019

Habitat for Humanity is planning to increase the number of affordable homes it builds in the City of Buffalo.

Habitat Buffalo Executive Director Teresa Bianchi said by 2020, the organization plans to go from building about 15 homes a year to 20. Bianchi said homeownership is an opportunity for people to build wealth.

Credit Chris Caya / WBFO News

"They're going to get into a home and they're going to be paying a mortgage. So that's one of the misconceptions about Habitat, is we just give houses away. We don't. These families are paying a mortgage but it's zero-percent interest. That's how it's affordable," she said.

"But at the end of the day they're the homeowner. They own this house and they're free to sell the house. So if someday they want to sell the house and move out of state or move to a different neighborhood they're free to do that and they're the ones who have the equity in that home now."

Before they can move in, all Habitat homeowners have to contribute 400 hours of sweat equity building their house, working on other Habitat projects or by volunteering in their community. Kids can also contribute by having good grades and attendance in school.

Bianchi said people who have a home often take for granted what it means.

"It's not just about shelter. It's about family traditions. It's about putting your head down at night on a pillow and knowing that you're going to wake up in the morning in the same bed go to school and come home to a safe stable environment," Bianchi said. "Ninety-seven percent of the kids in Habitat homes graduate from high school, where the national statistic is less than 50 percent of the kids in cities are graduating from high school."  

Bianchi says of the 97 percent graduation rate, 72 percent go on to some sort of higher education.

"Everybody thinks about Habitat as building houses. But we're really building houses, building communities and building hope," Bianchi said.

Habitat dedicates its latest house at 43 Zenner Street in Buffalo on June 15.