An Innovative Year for Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg in Meeting the Demands of the Housing Affordability Crisis
A year of challenges for Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg forced the local affiliate of the international nonprofit to be innovative to meet the surging demands of housing affordability that show no signs of slowing as we enter the new year.
“I wish we could put ourselves out of a job,” said Janet V. Green, CEO of Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg. “The goal is to build faster and more affordably while also helping the environment and that’s exactly what we’re going to continue to do. I’m very proud of our Habitat affiliate for trying innovative techniques to address the affordable housing crisis in America.”
In the 2023 annual report released by Habitat, the numbers show:
- 282 applications were received for the first-time Homebuyer Program, a record high up from last year’s record high of 263;
- 57 families were served through the homebuyer and the exterior repair programs in 2023;
- It costs $104 to fund 1 square foot of a Habitat home.
Embracing innovative solutions led Habitat to enter new territory by building four homes this year with insulated concrete forms (ICF). Building a home using ICF reduces costs and utility bills for homeowners. The four Habitat homes under construction using ICF in Charles City County are nearing completion with plans for a spring 2024 dedication.
Additionally, two homes dedicated to families on Dec. 12 in Newport News were constructed using 3D printing technology, another energy efficient and disaster resistant project contributing to a greener future.
Finding land to build on continues to be a struggle for Habitat.
“We have families interested in buying an affordable place to live. We are blessed to have volunteers to help us build homes and we have great partnerships with people willing to donate money for materials,” Green said. “But our biggest challenge is finding land that is either affordable or is buildable.”
The Charles City County build of four homes in a cul-de-sac is a first for the affiliate. Green urges any individual or business that can help provide land, even if it has existing property onsite, to contact her.
“We can’t pay market rate because the homes won’t be affordable to the families they’ll be sold to,” she said. “We could use single infill lots or large pieces of undeveloped property. We at Habitat will do all the heavy lifting to make the land as buildable as we can. Often we can offer tax deductions that are available to people.
“We are very creative when it comes to rehabs. We can rehab houses and renovate homes with all new everything to make sure they’re affordable and sell them just as we would for a newly built home.”
Soaring costs of materials prompted Habitat to look for new revenue streams. Last May, the affiliate opened a new Habitat ReStore on the busy Route 17 stretch in Yorktown; the 13,000-square-foot store is at 4824 George Washington Memorial Highway.
“We’re not as well-known there yet but every day we’re seeing more donations and customers,” Green said. “We would love more volunteers in that area, whether they can give two hours or eight hours or once a week or once a month. We really need volunteers of all skills levels and time commitments for the new store.”
The Williamsburg and Newport News ReStores remain the top two in the Commonwealth. Habitat ReStores sell new and gently used furniture, housewares and contractor supplies at deeply reduced prices, with all net proceeds going toward the construction of new homes. Each of the ReStores has started a Royalty Rewards program that encourages shoppers to amass points for every dollar spent and earn discounted rewards for return visits.
On Cyber Monday, the affiliate officially launched online shopping, an e-Store that is open 24/7 and updated weekly with new finds.
“We like to say unique vintage antique and boutique items,” Green said. “Most of these special items are not sold in the ReStore, so you have to shop at the eStore to find them.”
E-store proceeds were upward of $1,000 in the opening weeks. Many of the items are less than $20 but ideal for unusual and inspiring holiday gifts. Log on to shop.restorepgw.org to browse the eclectic inventory that changes every Saturday evening.
More than 900 people volunteered on behalf of Habitat in 2023, contributing 27,536 hours.
“They didn’t just give their time,” Green says. “They’re investing in our shared vision of decent and affordable housing for all.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Habitat will sponsor four signature fundraisers: Raise the Roof on Saturday, March 2; the Run the D.O.G. 5K and 1 Mile Fun Run on Saturday, April 20; the 20th Annual Golf Tournament on Monday, Sept. 15; and an inaugural Pickleball Tournament on Nov. 9-10.
In addition to the four homes in Charles City County, three Habitat homes are in varying construction stages in Hampton; three more in Williamsburg are awaiting final permits and three rehabs are expected to be ready by the end of the first quarter of the new year.
“We have selected the families who will be buying the houses in 2024 and they are eager to start creating memories and dreams that come with having an affordable place to stay,” Green said. “As we move into the new year, we’re even more recommitted to our mission, knowing that there’s so much need for affordable housing in this area. We always want to say thanks during this time of year, but there’s still so much more to be done. We can’t rest in our commitment to building and creating communities and changing lives for the better.”