Nearly 19 million households across the United States are spending at least half of their income on a place to live, often foregoing basic necessities such as food and healthcare to make ends meet. In fact, cost-burdened households with children spend on average $190 less on food and 70 percent less on heathcare compared to similar households living in affordable homes.
Habitat Spartanburg has joined Habitat organizations across the country to launch a new national advocacy campaign aimed at improving home affordability for 10 million people in the U.S. during the next five years. Marking significant growth in Habitat's commitment to ensuring everyone has a safe and decent place to call home, the Cost of Home campaign seeks to identify and improve policies and systems through coordinated advocacy efforts at the local, state and federal levels.
In Spartanburg, concerted efforts are already underway with the United Way, City of Spartanburg and Spartanburg County -- along with various nonprofits -- leading the charge to raise awareness on the importance of safe, affordable housing and fair and equitable access for all.
Fifty percent of households in Spartanburg are considered "low income." This is defined as earning below 80 percent of Area Median Income adjusted for family size. In real dollar terms, this equates to single adults with an income below $29,650 annually or a family of four earning less than $42,300 annually.
We know that 36 percent -- or 5,300 households -- of all households in Spartanburg pay more than 30 percent of their income on housing. Nationally, 34 percent of households are similarly cost-burdened.
Only 46 percent of households in Spartanburg own homes, and homeownership is exclusive. Low-income households make-up only 31 percent of owners. By contrast, 68 percent of all renters are low-income.
The Cost of Home Campaign focuses on improving housing affordability across the housing sectors in four specific policy areas: increasing supply and preservation of affordable homes, equitably increasing access to credit, optimizing land use for affordable homes and ensuring access to and development of communities of oportunity.
The story of Elmer and Ana Servando and their two daughters is one of faith, perseverance and true grit.
Elmer and Ana Servando were born in El Salvador, but met when they were in school in California. After they married and had two children, Amy and Natalie, they decided to move to South Carolina to be closer to family and to escape high living costs in California.
“At that time, we were living in a one bedroom mobile home in California, and wanted to make the move to South Carolina,” Elmer said. “Looking back now, it was the best move we ever made.”
With their children in tow, Elmer and Ana moved to South Carolina and lived with Ana’s brother and family in a small, older home in Spartanburg.
Tenisha Parks remembers the moment she let go of fear and turned her family’s future over to God.
“If you want something different, you have to do something different,” Rev. Walter Belton told his congregation late last year. As she sat in the pew, the single mother of two boys, ages 11 and 14, clung to those words.
For seven years, Tenisha and her two sons lived in government housing where the boys shared a bedroom and went to sleep with sounds of neighbors fighting and on some nights, gunshots in the background. Beer cans and drug needles were strewn throughout the complex.
When she was growing up, Tenisha said her family moved at least six times during her elementary school years. Stability, she said, was not a priority, but a goal she had for her own sons.
“I decided in that church to let go of the fear I had,” Tenisha said. “I had a $700 title loan hanging over my head, I was working two jobs and I was letting doubt control me.”
Charlene Lyle is the epitome of dedication - one of Habitat Spartanburg's most dedicated volunteers who has worked 3,408 hours building Habitat homes. In total, Charlene has worked on 45 Habitat Spartanburg homes!
Charlene is a member of an elite group - our regular volunteers who faithfully give one, usually two, days weekly to building homes for deserving families.
"After retirement I was looking for something to do and Habitat seemed like a good fit," Charlene said. "I look back now and think of all that I've learned, all of the people -- now friends who I met and I'm so thankful for the experience."
Joe Mattison -- the leader of the Monday Volunteer Group -- is humble about the work and time the group devotes to the Habitat Spartanburg ReStore.
"We work hard -- we do whatever needs to be done, but we enjoy each other's company, too," Joe said. "We all see it as a way to give back to the ministry -- and to Spartanburg -- and we have these bonds now with one another."