Durham Habitat – A partner in the mayor’s fight against poverty

Mar. 29, 2014 @ 10:15 AM

Durham Habitat applauds Mayor Bill Bell’s Fight Against Poverty and his recent declaration that North East Central Durham (NECD) be the “battleground” in Durham’s fight. 

The 400 and 500 blocks on North Hyde Park Avenue and North Maple Street are in the “battleground.”  Many streets in NECD include boarded-up, abandoned houses, but North Hyde Park and North Maple are different.  

Within the past 18 months, six families on these short blocks built and bought rehabbed homes in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Durham.  Habitat also repaired four homes for existing NECD homeowners.  The vacant shells of historic homes had potential, and today are vibrant and alive. Two of the six won Preservation Durham Conservation Awards last year.  

Residents on North Hyde Park and North Maple say they feel safe, and that their streets are quieter than neighboring streets.  They credit a committed group of neighbors who look out for each other, as well as Habitat’s work.  As one homeowner says, “When Habitat comes into a neighborhood, it’s going to change.”

Habitat partners with hard-working families and neighbors to build and sell new and rehabbed homes, and we repair homes for existing homeowners, primarily with volunteer labor. Durham Habitat embraces asset-based community development and we are proud to work in partnership with dedicated NECD neighbors and groups. Habitat helps families break the cycle of poverty for their children and future generations.  Our partnerships help revitalize Durham blocks, neighborhoods, and build a stronger community. 

As Mayor Bell seeks “foot soldiers” in the Fight Against Poverty, Habitat is an ideal platform for soldiers to get to work quickly.  Durham Habitat introduces nearly 8,000 volunteers a year to the issues surrounding affordable housing.  We sell 18-20 homes a year and repair homes for 40 families.  Habitat homeowners “pay it forward,” as their mortgage payments, which average $550 per month, build future Habitat homes.  And, Habitat homeowners have paid more than $3.5 million to Durham in property taxes! 

Founded on Christian values in 1985, Durham Habitat partners with those who share our ideals of love, respect, compassion and justice for all.  We welcome those of any faith -- or no faith -- to join us in building homes, hope and community in Durham.  Habitat has sold homes at 0 percent interest to more than 300 families, and estimates more than 750 Durham children live or have grown up in Habitat homes.  Parents say their children do better in school because a safe home provides a healthier and more stable environment than a crowded, expensive rental.  

Yet, that 61 percent of our neighbors in NECD live in poverty is a clear indication that we have work to do.  Our vision is that more Durham neighbors have a safe and affordable place to call home, and that more blocks in NECD are revitalized like North Hyde Park and North Maple.  We need four things to make our vision a reality:  1) passionate advocates in the Fight Against Poverty; 2) qualified partner families to buy Habitat homes; 3) land (buildable lots); and 4) money for materials to build and repair homes.

We invite Durham neighbors to join the fight against poverty by building homes, hope and community in partnership with Durham Habitat.  Get involved and learn more by visiting www.durhamhabitat.org.  

Blake Strayhorn is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Durham Inc.