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Affordable housing nonprofit changes focus amid rising costs, inflation

Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity says building homes from the ground up isn't cost effective anymore
Posted at 5:39 AM, Aug 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-01 08:15:37-04

INDEPENDENCE, Mo  — Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity says the rising cost of operations, construction, gas and labor is impacting the number of families they are able to serve.

The nonprofit is known to link families who are facing hardships to affordable housing and they say that need is at a high point because of our current economy.

"I know that for a lot of the families, there's nothing like having a place to call home and to see that dream pushed out a little bit further due to how pricing of everything has just got so inflated," said Albert Harris, site manager for Truman Heritage Habitat for Humanity.

Inflation is at its highest peak in decades and Truman Habitat says costs to build a home have increased for them by about 40%.
Sub contractors and labor costs have also seen a significant increase and while they rely on donated materials, volunteers and grants to build homes they say the current economy is outweighing their resources.

"It's extremely difficult," President and CEO Christina Leakey said. "I can't tell you how much it pains our employees to answer the phone calls of families that are desperately trying to find an affordable home."

Leakey says the turnaround time to build a home has also increased, right now the nonprofit is wrapping up two home projects, which were supposed to be complete in May. In addition, Leakey explained homes being priced at higher values are also impacting their clients. She says homes are being appraised at a higher rate, which means payments are going more towards taxes and insurance, making building equity difficult.

"I can't tell you how much it pains our employees to answer the phone calls of families that are desperately trying to find an affordable home to live in, whether that's rent or own, but we know that we can make such a difference by providing home ownership opportunities through the Habitat model," said Leakey.

While Leakey says she would love to compete in the market, she says it isn't feasible.

"It just isn't making sense right now that the construction costs for one and the just the sheer unavailability of property to purchase. We would love to purchase homes and rehab them for home ownership opportunities, but the challenge right now is most of the properties are being sold to investors for a significant profit and we just can't compete in that market."

Leakey says finding a solution to the problem won’t be easy, which is why they are choosing to focus on preserving homes and making critical repairs to help as many people as they can. This year, they have approximately 80 home preservation projects in the works.

"It means we're serving more families, that shift is a direct result of us understanding that right now building homes from the ground up isn't as cost effective as investing in existing housing stock," Leakey said. "So we're making an intentional shift to focus on home preservation because right now that's where our donor dollars are gonna get stretched the furthest."

Leakey says the nonprofit is looking at developing transitional housing units until the economy settles, but nothing is set in stone.

If anything, the economy is making it where there's going to be this number of families that need help," Harris said. "The need has just been so overwhelming from the beginning."

Donations to Truman Heritage can be given online.