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Building back the Queen City: Habitat for Humanity helping build credit and wealth with one home at a time

Habitat for Humanity home in Buffalo
Posted at 5:23 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-25 18:23:38-04

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — A mission to help everyone have a decent place to call home can seem like a daunting task, but Habitat for Humanity (HFH) has been consistent in its goal of creating affordable housing in the Queen City, since 1985.

"It takes about 5,000 to 6,000 volunteer hours to build every habitat home," Habitat for Humanity development and communications director, Stephanie Lawson said.

The Buffalo chapter has built at least 325 homes since then.

"We help families with roofs and accessibility features, ramps, home preservation projects, so they can retain the value in their homes. We are trying to broaden our programs to meet the changing needs in our community," Lawson said.

Lawson told 7 News' Pheben Kassahun access to affordable housing in Western New York has been a problem for decades.

"We have been building in the city since before it was cool. Now, we see a lot of the folks moving into the City of Buffalo, buying really affordable real estate and then pricing out the residents who have been her historically," she added.

To help prevent this, the organization competes to purchase properties with outside investors, lenders, landlords and people who flip homes.

"We are just as competitive. We buy those homes. We either rehab or build something new from the ground up, and then we sell those homes to families who go through our home buyer program. Our program allows us to buy houses affordably. So, we subsidize the interest. We do most of the labor with volunteers," she said.

The family is then able to purchase the home and repay an affordable monthly mortgage. When looking for home buyers, she said they are typically looking for people who are working and trying to get themselves into the middle class.

"They are often times working hard, sometimes working multiple jobs and they just can't get ahead. Maybe they have bad credit, or maybe they have never gone through the home buying process before and so we are a really strong partner in that," Lawson explained.

Those who qualify to partner with HFH must contribute at least 400 hours of "sweat equity", attend education classes and repay the mortgage.

"The families who buy our homes pay a monthly mortgage and that monthly mortgage help fund future homes. So, our program is kind of revolving in the sense of every home we build, we are able to build another home," she added.

It is not just building a house; it is basically giving people access to credit and wealth.

To become a volunteer for HFH, click here.

To apply for a house, or become a "partner family", click here.

Volunteers do not have to know how to build. They will be taught on the day of each project.

In the Buffalo Strong section of, a list can be found with contact information for more than a dozen organizations in the city looking for volunteers to 'get involved.'