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The affordable housing evolution: From single homes to thriving communities

Updated: Jun 24

Habitat for Humanity has built affordable homes in neighborhoods throughout Seminole County and Apopka for more than three decades, constructing each individual home with the needs of a single family in mind. In fact, our slogan used to be “One house, one family at a time.” But today’s housing market is changing that approach.


With costs skyrocketing for everything from materials to labor, we have to think bigger in order to continue to meet our community's needs. Habitat homes are purchased by low-income families at prices that typically cut housing costs in half. Habitat families find stability, no longer paying monthly rent or moving with each new lease because the new rent increase exceeds their budget.


Building communities, changing lives


With stable housing, Habitat homeowners often find that, for the first time, they can save money for a rainy day, plan for their children’s education or simply buy a dependable car to get to work on time. Their children are no longer changing schools with each move, and so their grades improve. Affordable homeownership builds stronger families and stronger neighborhoods for everyone: Residents, businesses and government.


In a Habitat home, parents begin to build a better life for themselves, their children and their children’s children. Homeownership creates changes that transcend generations by building wealth that is passed down. This creates possibilities for families that they never imagined. Everyone deserves that chance. And every community deserves the chance to thrive with the talents of a diverse population of residents and workers.


That is why we must continue to do what we do. 

family smiling in front of their new affordable Habitat Seminole Apopa house


Is affordable housing still possible? 


We can still build affordable homes in Florida. But what we can no longer do is absorb the rising costs of home construction and still serve hard-working, low-income families. Building affordable communities helps us offset some of these costs.


We made a huge leap from home builder to developer with the recent completion of Leadership Point, a 6-home community in Sanford. It was a learning curve that required a new perspective and approach, and different skill sets. Developers rezone, plot and clear the land; install sidewalks, utility lines, streetlights, fire hydrants, traffic signs and water retention, and pave roads, in addition to building homes.

Leadership Point was the first community where we took on such an extensive role, and the outcome could not have been more rewarding. Six deserving families are now empowered and see new possibilities for their futures. These families worked for a year or more to qualify for their homes, like all Habitat families do. They will all move in around the same time and begin building a cohesive community.


While we will not completely stop building individual homes in established neighborhoods, it is clear Leadership Point is a success, so we will continue to challenge ourselves to think differently and look for new opportunities to manage building costs.


We controlled rising costs at Leadership Point through economies of scale, the same as a commercial home developer does.


Seminole County started the ball rolling with funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The County added an innovative twist by creating a self- perpetuating source of funding that enables reinvestment into additional affordable homes after each new community is completed. 


 The face of Habitat for Humanity is changing too


You might be surprised to find out who the typical Habitat homeowner is today. Many of the people we serve are those who provide essential community services – teachers, EMS workers and police officers. These are the people being squeezed out of the housing and rental markets. Affordable housing may be the only way we keep essential workers living and working in our community. As housing costs rise throughout the Central Florida market, these workers will need to move further outside our area and may be compelled to change jobs to be closer to their new homes.


Everyone benefits from affordable-housing communities  


Our long-standing partnership with local government benefits all Seminole County residents because everyone is served when essential workers remain close to home – when that fire fighter, teacher or 911 call operator is your neighbor and has a longstanding commitment to the place they live and serve.


Community development provides other benefits, such as:  


1. Holistic impact  

We can address a broader range of needs beyond just housing. By integrating elements such as infrastructure, healthcare, education, and economic opportunities into community development projects, we create neighborhoods that support the holistic well-being of people because stable housing is just one piece of the puzzle. Low-income families need to be close to jobs, transportation and have good access to shopping. 


2. Sustainable change 

 While providing families with safe and affordable housing is a core need, the impact of individual home construction can sometimes be limited in scope. By investing in the development of entire communities, Habitat for Humanity can create more sustainable change that transcends generations. Comprehensive community development projects lay the groundwork for long-term stability and prosperity, breaking the cycle of poverty and creating opportunities for future growth and advancement. 

group of female volunteers working on the siding of a Habitat Seminole-Apopka house


 3. Community ownership  

Habitat homeowners are engaged from Day 1. They usually help build their home, through sweat equity hours on the job site. When community members have a stake in the planning, design, and implementation of their homes and neighborhood, they are more likely to take ownership of their future and actively participate to keep it safe and viable. It fosters pride and empowerment, strengthens social bonds and builds a culture of collaboration and solidarity.


4. Addressing inequities  

By focusing on community development, Habitat for Humanity can address underlying structural issues and advocate for policy changes that promote greater equity and inclusion. From advocating for affordable housing policies to supporting initiatives that address discrimination, Habitat's transition to building entire communities can serve as a catalyst for broader social change.


5. Maximizing resources  

Community development allows us to maximize our impact and resources. We can stretch our funding further and achieve greater results. We also access a wider range of expertise and resources with larger projects. 


 6. Creating vibrant, inclusive spaces  

We can create communities that are welcoming and inclusive for all residents, serving as models of excellence that inspire others to embrace principles of equity, diversity and inclusion in their own development efforts.


It’s time to expand our impact and transcend the boundaries of traditional housing. By thinking bigger and broader, we discover new options in a challenging market, and we can continue to fulfill our mission: Creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live, where every family sees the possibilities for something better today and for generations to come.

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