Peninsula’s Habitat for Humanity hits record number of housing applicants; Lack of affordable housing to blame

Posted at 1:41 PM, Jun 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-13 19:21:05-04

HAMPTON, Va. – Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg has received a record number of applications to build homes. The nonprofit serves families on the Peninsula and in Williamsburg from New Kent to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

This year, the nonprofit hit a new record, receiving 250 homeowner applications, nearly double the amount last year. It’s the most amount of housing applications since the nonprofit began in 1985.

Habitat for Humanity Peninsula and Greater Williamsburg CEO Janet V. Green said the need for affordable housing far exceeds the supply.

“The biggest struggle is finding affordable land to build on,” said Green. ““Real estate is difficult for everybody both buying and renting. There’s just an incredible need for more affordable housing options for people.”

Tonya Scott, 36, and her husband Jeffrey, 35, walked through the construction site of what will soon be their new home on Dogwood Street in Hampton Monday.

“I’m excited,” Tonya Scott said. “We’re first-time homebuyers.”

The couple has been working toward the American dream for years, after they say they were spending most of their income on rent while trying to put food on the table for their five children.

“It’s just kind of wasting money just to have a roof over your head,” Jeffrey Scott said. “Then it just got to the point where the finances just kept accumulating and it’s not going toward anything we could leave for our children.”

Getting to this point didn’t come without some setbacks. The couple both lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic.

“We pretty much lost everything,” said Jeffrey Scott. “We had to start staying with family. I had to look at my family sleep on the floor.”

The family of seven was soon able to get back on their feet and turned to Habitat for Humanity for help building a place to call home.

“They’re great working members of our community and they deserve a safe, decent and affordable place to live,” Green said.

Finding affordable land to build on has also become a growing problem. That coupled with inflation from everything to food, gas, rent and the soaring housing market, is making it more challenging for families to find affordable homes.

And whether you’re in the market to buy or rent, it’s at an all-time high.

“The pandemic really changed so much,” said Green. “Both the cost of lumber; cost of materials; the supply chain issues; everything took a lot longer and was much more expensive.”

For the Scotts, the pandemic has caused a two-year delay, but they say they’re now looking toward the future.

“Stability right now and peace of mind is the most important thing for me and my family,” Jeffrey Scott said. “We just want to breathe for a little bit. It just seems like it’s been a little tough to come up above water, but we’re excited for the future.”

The Scotts are hoping to move into their home in the next three months.

Habitat partners with families to build or renovate homes that are then sold to selected applicants. Families put in at least 300 sweat equity hours and undergo a rigorous vetting process.

One of Habitat’s homes in Newport News will be completed this Thursday. The nonprofit has 11 homes it's working on this year.

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