Members of the Zonta Club of Sanibel-Captiva recently enjoyed an update from long-time service partner Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties, delivered by Elisha Baird, vice president for strategic partnerships. Baird, who has served with the local Habitat chapter for 6 years, acknowledged the multi-year relationship the club has had with Habitat, and especially with Women Build, providing financial grants and hands-on support at construction sites.
Initiated 11 years ago, Women Build aims to empower women and men in the service area to share in the extensive need for affordable home ownership, through a focused campaign that typically kicks off in March and culminates in two or more homes awarded to new owners in May. In all, through local fundraising efforts, Women Build has enabled 25 female heads of household to benefit, building strength and stability for themselves and their children.
This is in addition to 1,680 other families that have partnered with Habitat since 1982 by qualifying to purchase an affordable home, 73 of them since the start of the pandemic in March of 2020. Requirements include completing 300 hours of sweat equity, attending home ownership and financial literacy classes, and paying $2,000 towards closing costs. Before moving in, the new homeowner’s mortgage is set at 30 percent of annual income. Nearly two-thirds of new homeowner families in recent years were women-led, a percentage that is increasing.
Baird acknowledged that the pandemic has brought challenges. However, she said, “As we recover from the shared experience of country-wide shut-downs, stay at home orders, and a major shift in the lives of so many, perhaps for the first time, many of us discovered how important a safe, stable and decent home really is.”
Constructing two new Women Build homes, she said, can now cost a total of $390,000, about 10 percent more than two years ago. For each home, $45,000 is for infrastructure, $145,000 for foundation to roof, and $5,000 for homeowner counseling.
Baird shared anecdotes of some recent new Habitat homeowners, overcoming difficult circumstances and now looking forward to settling in with their children in a safe, affordable home. Habitat currently has 43 families in the program working towards ownership, and 29 of those are led by single moms.
Habitat Women Build has applied for a 2021 Zonta grant, expected to be awarded this December. Baird ended by reminding members that individuals are also welcome as partners in the goal of making mortgages affordable for more families: “Habitat is a hand up, not a handout!” she said. For information, visit www.habitat4humanity.org/womenbuild. For more about Zonta, go to www.ZontaSanCap.org.
Featured Photo: Elisha Baird, vice president of strategic partnerships for Habitat