Some of my fondest holiday memories growing up involve sitting around a large table in my grandmother’s house with friends and family that had traveled from all over to be together and enjoy one another’s company – and, of course her infamous pumpkin pie. Sure, we exchanged gifts, but that wasn’t the point. We realized how lucky we were to simply have each other and to have a safe and stable home base to return to each year as we reflected on our many blessings and shared memories together.
ABOVE: A Habitat for Humanity build site in the Bonton area. (Photo by Brian Wolowicz)
As we enter into the 2018 holiday season, I’ve been thinking a lot about how our formative memories often center around a particular place and how, for many of us, that place is our childhood home. It’s where we’ve taken our first steps, learned to play catch, celebrated graduations and then launched into the world, ready to make our own mark. And this year especially, with all that is going on in the world, I’m reminded of the value of community, our shared humanity and the importance of working together to support our neighbors.
For the past eight months, I’ve had the tremendous honor of leading Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity in a transformation of our organization, keeping those very thoughts in mind.
We’ve made changes in how we manage our lot inventory across the city; we’ve worked to ensure mortgage payments remain within reach for our families by migrating to a zero interest rate model; and as median home sale prices in the DFW region have skyrocketed by 33 percent in the last three years, we’ve introduced a new Affordability Fund to help offset the cost of down payments for new homeowners thanks to generous corporate sponsors.
Throughout these changes, our mission has remained the same – we are focused on providing a safe and stable home for families in Dallas. For you see, the benefits of homeownership extend far beyond the four walls and roof of a building. Home ownership doesn’t just improve health outcomes in children by dramatically reducing their risks for disease and illnesses like asthma, it changes the odds of success for generations to come as children of homeowners are 116% more likely to graduate college and will earn, on average, 59 percent more in their lifetime than non-homeowners.
This year alone, we built 94 homes, educated more than 200 families in becoming “mortgage ready” and celebrated with 27 Dallas families who paid off their Habitat mortgages. Since 1986, we’ve invested more than $166 million in 25 Dallas neighborhoods with Habitat homeowners contributing approximately $4 million in property taxes, annually.
A few weeks ago, we celebrated with the Mukeshimana-Nyiraburanga family at their Bonton home dedication. It should come as no surprise that these events are some of my favorite parts of the job. Sifa and Agnes are two sisters who are finally settled in Dallas, after escaping civil war-stricken Rwanda six years ago. As we passed them their ceremonial keys and I saw the joy in their faces and the realization of their homeownership dreams fulfilled, it struck me that this holiday season, as they prepare for holidays together in their own home, will be the turning point in their family’s life that will affect generations to come. These tight knit sisters are raising their young boys together and now have a home base to call their own – just like I had – and I think that’s definitely worth celebrating.
Dave Crawford is CEO of Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity.