HDC appreciates all the passion, hard work, and dedication our members devote to the affordable housing movement. No single organization could make this impact and secure this progress alone. The collaboration and connection among members is the human energy that works to ensure all people have a safe, healthy, and affordable home. We want to show our appreciation and learn more about our affordable housing community through these member highlights as each member is crucial to achieving the larger vision of this movement. This week our featured member is Rebuilding Together. Thank you for all the work that you do!
- What excites your team about the work you are doing?
One of the things that our staff, supporters, and volunteers appreciate about our work is the ability to connect with people on a very personal level. Everyone we work with has an incredible life story, and it doesn’t have to be a tragic one to realize just how much their home has impacted their life, the wellbeing of their family, and the neighborhood they’ve helped shape. Being able to ensure families have housing stability and security while making sure their home isn’t putting them at risk of injury or illness is incredibly rewarding and powers our work.
- What is a favorite office anecdote?
This story is quite sad as well, so you’ll forgive us for trying to find some humor in it, but we once had a program applicant that we were unable to gain their trust enough to move forward with a planned project. You can imagine how difficult it would be to invite volunteers, strangers essentially, into your home to start making changes to it, even if the changes were much needed repairs or accessibility improvements. Not all of the people who reach out to us are in fact ready to receive support and this applicant was in such a position. To cancel the project and withdraw their application, they left a voicemail message one evening that ended with, “Well I guess I’ll see you…never!” and hung up. “See ya…never!” has become a common refrain for us when heading out to a meeting or leaving for the day. And while funny now, also reminds us of the vulnerability and trust that we ask of our neighbors, and the urgency in not taking for granted the few chances we have to improve someone’s life.
- What upcoming projects, partnerships, and news are you looking forward to?
As I’m sure most of you have had as well, this year has been incredibly busy for Rebuilding Together. Later this year we will celebrate our 2,000 home repair project in our 29-year history, with 1,000 of those projects coming in the last 5 years alone! And while we will reach about the same number of households as last year, 225, we have begun to layer funding and resources onto projects in order to complete deeper impact work scopes in phases. In addition to larger, longer projects, we have also started to concentrate resources in neighborhoods where homeownership is still high, but poverty levels are on the rise. I think few of us might realize that between 2000 and 2015, neighborhoods with poverty rates above 20% have more than doubled in our region. Moreover, substandard housing, housing instability and displacement, and economic disparity are disproportionately affecting communities of color, with African-American homeownership dropping in half from 40% to 20% in Seattle between 2000 and 2013, for example. As such, we are shifting from a scattered site approach of addressing substandard housing conditions at individual homes, to a concentrated approach of making sustained investments in neighborhoods of opportunity where we can also begin to help address the health and safety of entire communities. This approach will keep housing repair and rehab at the core of our mission, but also allow us to engage with organizations and in projects that intersect with other social determinants of health, outside of solely housing. More companies, organizations, and agencies than ever are helping us make that possible through direct program funding, as well as joining us in our housing rehab work, and we’d love to have even more HDC members join us in 2019 to ensure that people have not only an affordable place to live, but a safe and healthy one as well.
- What have you been most proud of during your time as an HDC member?
Rebuilding Together has only been an HDC member for about 3 years now, but during that time we’ve seen some of the conversation around our housing issues start to include addressing substandard, unsafe, and unhealthy housing conditions, as well as encompass a broader spectrum of housing needs to tackle our affordability issues, including affordable homeownership. In working to eliminating homelessness, I also now see more focus on the prevention and housing stabilization side. I think those are all strong signs that we are collectively thinking deeper about our housing challenges and are getting to a point where we’re not just reactionary, but are able to get out ahead of housing needs so we can mitigate future crises. So I’m most proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish together, and HDC has been at the center of that leadership.