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Ready, set, build! Habitat for Humanity requests state funding to construct more homes

Habitat for Humanity volunteers built the frame of a future Glens Falls home at West Capitol Park in Albany
Lucas Willard
Habitat for Humanity volunteers built the frame of a future Glens Falls home at West Capitol Park in Albany

A hundred volunteers framed out a three-bedroom, two-bath home on the lawn of the state capitol in Albany Tuesday.

A chorus of hammers surrounded the capitol building, as volunteers worked to construct the frame of a home that will go to a family in Glens Falls.

The display was part of Habitat for Humanity’s 2022 Community Build Day.

With skyrocketing real estate prices making homeownership unattainable for many, Habitat for Humanity provides housing opportunities to families outside of the traditional model that requires a large down payment and closing costs.

Adam Feldman is Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Northern Saratoga, Warren & Washington Counties.

“Traditionally, down payment is one of the biggest deterrents. At Habitat, we believe in sweat equity rather than cash equity. So the families only need to put $2,500 down to build their house. And then they literally help – just like you see out here – to build the house along with the community to earn their house,” said Feldman.

Among those raising the first walls of the future home was New York State Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, whose 113th District includes portions of Saratoga and Washington Counties. Woerner's district includes some of the fastest-growing areas in the state.

The Democrat said high housing costs force workers to move further away from their employers, a problem that has been made worse by the pandemic.

“So having attainable housing for people across the economic housing means that our workforce is a more stable workforce, when people are located closer to their jobs,” said Woerner. “It’s also true that vibrancy in a neighborhood comes from diversity. And that’s diversity in a lot of different forms. And one form is economic diversity.”

The new state budget includes $400 million to support homeownership. Habitat for Humanity, the largest non-profit developer in the state, is seeking a large portion of that funding. Mary Robinson is CEO of Habitat for Humanity of New York State.

“We are so grateful for New York State government to allocate $400 million towards affordable homeownership. They’ve never done anything like this before, it’s incredible. We are asking that they dedicate $200 million of that to non-profit developers,” said Robinson.

Feldman says if the funding is provided to Habitat, the organization could double the number of homes it builds.

“So we’re building about a hundred homes a year. And we think that if we get that $200 million, we can build a thousand homes over the next five years,” said Feldman.

Woerner says she’s supporting a bill that would more clearly define how the homeownership funding will be distributed under the umbrella of the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal.

“I have recently introduced a piece of legislation that will lay out that process. It was not well defined in the budget and certainly DHCR, which will be the agency administering it, has the capacity to administer but we’d like to give them a little bit of guidance,” said Woerner.

After its relocation to Glens Falls, construction on the home will continue for the next four to six months.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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