Homes, Hope and Capitol Hill

February 22, 2013  |  Leave a Comment

Meredyth Skemp, Project Manager in our Real Estate Development department offers insight on her recent trip to Capitol Hill, advocating for continued funding for both Habitat for Humanity endeavors and national service.

On February 4-5, I was one of more than 250 Habitat staff and volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C., for Habitat on the Hill, Habitat’s annual legislative conference. Attendees met with more than 300 members of Congress and their staff to educate them about our work, and to advocate for federal funding programs and national service. The conference was a good reminder that the advocacy we do is imperative to our success as an affordable homeownership provider, and that education is a critical piece of this work.

Advocacy work is not new to Greater San Francisco’s Habitat for Humanity. Staff from our affiliate have been actively involved in legislative issues for years. Most recently, since the elimination of redevelopment agencies in California, we continue to advocate for a permanent dedicated source of funds for affordable housing at the state level.

Upon arriving to the capitol, we were faced with the reality that Congress had still not passed the budget for the current year–and with automatic budget cuts looming if no action is taken, it was clear that the regulatory environment in D.C. is anything but settled.

Habitat Greater SF's Director of Real Estate Development, Deven, prepares for the challenging task ahead.


Staff from Habitat International said it best: The budget climate we were walking into was like a shrinking pie within a shrinking pie. Given the challenge of dwindling resources, we focused on using our time in D.C. to educate our representatives on the impact that Habitat’s work has on the homeowners and volunteers that we work with each day.

Our message to Congress was simple: spending cuts need not be arbitrary. We spoke of the success of the federal funding programs that Habitat affiliates utilize across the country, meeting critical housing needs and creating private investment and growth in local communities:

  • Since 1996, HUD’s Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) has supported organizations like Habitat that employ the self-help ownership model. Across the state, California Habitat affiliates have leveraged more than $5.7 million of SHOP funding alone to build more than 420 homes.
  • HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Home Investment Partnerships Program (HOME) also fund affordable housing development. Habitat Greater San Francisco has utilized federal funding programs including SHOP, CDBG, and HOME to build more than 40 of our 200+ homes.
  • Habitat for Humanity operates one of the most extensive national service programs in the country. Across the country, Habitat AmeriCorps members have served more than 15,000 families, contributed more than 12 million hours of service and mobilized over 2.5 million volunteers.

In the weeks since Habitat on the Hill, I have been reminded of the importance of bringing housing issues to the forefront at all levels. Whether it is in conversation with friends, colleagues, policy makers or community leaders, it is imperative that we spread the message that we at Habitat are so passionate about: safe, affordable, decent housing plays a critical role in the success of hard-working individuals, families and communities.

News in funding for affordable housing in California:

The California Homes and Jobs Act (Senate Bill 391), legislation to create a dedicated statewide source of funding for affordable housing, was introduced by Senator Mark DeSaulnier this week. The bill is expected to generate an average of $500 million per year to build safe and affordable homes throughout California. Click here for more information.