Habitat Monterey Bay: Building affordable homes and home ownership through “sweat equity”
Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay is partnering with local contractors and community volunteers to build their most recent affordable housing development at Rodeo Creek Court in the Live Oak neighborhood of Santa Cruz.
Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay has one simple vision – a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
Realizing their mission to build decent, affordable homes and provide home ownership to families in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties is anything but simple. But thanks to dedicated leadership, enthusiastic community support, and committed partner families, Habitat provides results – and homes.
The idea behind Habitat for Humanity started in a small town in Georgia, and then grew overseas in the early 1970s. Habitat for Humanity International now works in all 50 states, and in 70 countries. True to the original concept of “partnership housing,” Habitat is not a giveaway program. Families purchase homes with a down payment, contribute “sweat equity,” and maintain manageable monthly payments.
The stark increase in Santa Cruz County home prices, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, have made it increasingly difficult, often impossible, for families to afford to purchase a home. Betsy Powers, Resource Development Director for Habitat Monterey Bay, points out that the organization helps overcome some of the area’s hurdles, including high home costs, rapid growth, a lack of new construction, and limits to what can be built and where. “Habitat for Humanity sees itself as lending an extra hand to those who need it, with the larger aim of providing the stability that ownership brings.”
“Sweat Equity” to a Habitat home
An important aspect of the Habitat process is the “sweat equity” that partner families bring to the table. Each Habitat homeowner is required to contribute 500 hours toward the construction of a Habitat home. Homeowner families are chosen according to their need, their ability to pay off an affordable mortgage, and their willingness to work in partnership with Habitat.
Everardo Jaime, Family Services Manager for Habitat, encourages a look into the application process, pointing out many people don’t think they qualify as a low-income household. Qualified families for this development earn between 50-80% of the area median income. When the numbers are added up, “it’s actually a lot more families qualifying than people think.”
Another vital partnership that Habitat relies on is with teams of volunteers who work on building sites, contributing their hours to the homeowner families’ required sweat equity. Volunteers come from a wide range of backgrounds with a broad variety of skills. Some volunteers draw on their experience and bring decades of knowledge to work building affordable housing, and others come with no experience and learn how to construct a home from the ground up, working under the guidance of on-site professionals. Together, volunteers and families have built fifty-seven homes, with further plans extending through the foreseeable future.
11 Homes in Live Oak
Habitat’s current project is Rodeo Creek Court, located at 2340 Harper Street in the Live Oak neighborhood of Santa Cruz. This affordable housing project includes eleven homes built as five two-story duplexes and one ADA-accessible single-story home. The project will have a community garden and a community play area.
A pair of local families have moved into the first two completed houses and Habitat for Humanity has chosen the applicants for the next three homes, which are currently under construction. The application process is now open for the next six homes on Rodeo Creek Court.
Santa Cruz County Bank has been a longtime supporter of Habitat for Humanity Monterey Bay, providing financial sponsorship to the organization as well as enthusiastic volunteers on Team Build Days. During the COVID-19 pandemic, job sites were restricted for safety to essential crews only. Returning to volunteer at Habitat’s Rodeo Creek Court development in Live Oak was a welcome return to the Bank’s personal commitment to the community. More than a dozen Team SCCB volunteers spent a Saturday with their sleeves rolled up, working together with Keaton Port Gaarn and Dylan Childs on one of six remaining units in the eleven-home development.
We are so thrilled to be on-site for this Habitat Build Day. It’s a volunteer opportunity that our team always looks forward to. As a community bank we’re committed to building relationships. Today we’re taking the building part more literally. We’re so grateful for our partnership with Habitat Monterey Bay and for their dedication to housing families in our county.
— Krista Snelling, President and CEO, Santa Cruz County Bank
More About Santa Cruz County Bank
Santa Cruz County Bank is a leading lender in the county, region, state and nation. Most recently, the Bank ranked in the top 10 lenders in the San Francisco District of the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for both the number of loans and the dollar amount of SBA loans. The San Francisco District runs from Santa Cruz to the Oregon border along the coast and includes all Bay Area counties.
Watch Krista Snelling, our President and CEO, talk about Santa Cruz County Bank’s focus on success, for local businesses and the community. We know – good things happen when you put your money where your life is. Click here to watch the video.