CLEVELAND — Despite an onset of new challenges, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity said it will end the year completing 26 houses, a record for this 35-year-old area nonprofit.
“We didn’t think we would do this many houses this year,” John Habat, President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, said. “We were thinking anywhere from 18-21 and then it all came together and this is what happened.”
In December alone, the company says nine new homeowners are set to move in.
Joyce, whose last name is not being used for this story, and her preschool son are among the ones moving in before the holidays.
“I would drive by almost every day,” she said of the eight-month-long process. “At my mom’s [where we were staying], there wasn’t a lot of space, so here my son can open his gifts and play with his toys.”
For Joyce, the process culminates a long journey trying to find her own in a real estate market unlike any other.
“It was so hard,” she said. “First, I was looking at apartments and I thought this isn’t going to work. I looked at houses and I couldn't find anything.”
Habitat for Humanity helps low-income earning families become homebuyers through an application process, along with contributing volunteer hours into a project and attending workshops highlighting topics such as financial literacy and general home safety and maintenance.
The record-breaking amount of new and restored homes comes at a time when 2021 brought new challenges to real estate development including another year of the pandemic, a backlog in permits, and soaring lumber prices, which Habat said led to a 10% increase in overall costs.
“We’ve dealt with labor shortages, COVID-19 sickness,” Habat said.
A spokesperson with Habitat said their success is built on the backs of their volunteers, which had to be drastically scaled back because of the pandemic.
“The ones who showed up kept showing up more and more,” Habat said. “These are very skilled volunteers, some who have been with us for 30 years now.”
Additionally, the nonprofit saw a 10% increase in donations during 2021.
By 2024, Habat said they will have completed almost one hundred houses in that neighborhood.