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A Foundation for Life – Habitat for Humanity

A friend of mine got lost in Martinez recently and stopped at a building site off Pacheco Boulevard to get his bearings. “Man, I want to come back here and shoot pictures of this place,” he told me. I stole his idea. This is what we call story development at BayMozaic.  I contacted Erin Spaulding at Habitat for Humanity East Bay/Silicon Valley (EBSV) to ask about the Muir Ridge development. She told me the project matched a natural need for affordable housing in the far reaches of the East Bay, as housing costs have gone up across Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara Counties.

In an area where land is hard to come by, Habitat for Humanity EBSV was able to take over an existing development site in unincorporated Martinez. They broke ground a year ago and will complete the second phase of building twenty homes in late May 2016. Most of us have heard about Habitat for Humanity, and I was curious about Erin’s personal and emotional connection with the organization.

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Erin Spaulding: I started working for Habitat right after college, and ended up doing my senior project on it as an Americorps volunteer helping to build sustainable programs. It was in my first two months that I helped plan a big home dedication. I met some of the families there who had already been living in these homes for years.  That’s when I met Adriana. She was only a year younger than I and so I could related to her and connect with her. She’d lived in the home since she was seven. I asked her if she wouldn’t mind mind having coffee with me. She made a huge impact on me personally.

When they moved in she said, I thought we won the lotto. This was a less than 1,000 square foot affordable home. She went on to college, then became a Fulbright scholar and moved on to graduate school afterwards. She had a hand up at one point in her life, and this changed her trajectory forever. Each one of the (the family’s three) daughters is now on her way to being a homeowner herself.

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Becoming a Habitat for Humanity Homeowner
Homeowners are selected by a team of volunteers. After the financial qualifications, volunteers meet with families, determine the need for housing and the willingness to partner and the ability to pay. They put up to 500 hours of sweat equity into the home, and each home is built with 80 percent volunteer labor. (To find out about volunteering with Habitat for Humanity EBSV, check this out).

The Playbook: What Works
I think there are two reasons people come to help. First, the work is so tangible and hands on and this is something that’s really attractive about volunteering with Habitat. Also, we have some awesome dedications when you see the families being handed over the key to their new home you see that change in their life taking place in front of you.

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It’s important to consider home ownership as part of the affordable housing mix. Yes, high capacity housing is needed for sure, but the stability in a community of home ownership is needed as well. For prospective homeowners, don’t disqualify yourselves. You might not know what programs are out there that can help.

We don’t just serve the low and very low, we have moderate housing, too. (Muir Ridge offers a mix of housing.  There are three available future homes for the low-income range – 80% AMI, area median income. For more details about the Martinez development and to inquire about availability, read here.) Photos taken of Kaiser Permanente CS BIO HNS volunteers.

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