Celebrating 40 years of homes, communities, and hope
FORTY YEARS OF...
At Habitat, we know that the dream of affordable housing is a necessity for people all across Maryland from all walks of life. Community advocates like the Community Development Network of Maryland help bring affordable housing to the forefront of policy initiatives and raise awareness for housing as a foundational community asset. Claudia Wilson Randall, Executive Director of CDN, sat down with Habitat Chesapeake to discuss the critical role that housing plays in community advocacy.
Claudia Wilson Randall, Executive Director of CDN of Maryland
“Housing is at the centerpiece of community development, [including] housing with its intersections to health, transportation, and overall planning,” she said. In 2020, the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development released the Maryland Housing Needs Assessment & 10-Year Strategic Plan, a comprehensive document illustrating housing needs across all counties in the state of Maryland. The plan offers a strategic framework and tools for addressing housing needs for the next decade.
“They looked at what the need for housing was as the state grows, […] and there is a particular need for housing for people at 30 to 60% of area median income in the state of Maryland. And that’s in every county throughout the state. Housing is really a critical piece to the community development industry.”
Habitat Chesapeake advocates for policies that benefit affordable housing solutions every year at Habitat on the Hill, the annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C. This year, Habitat affiliates met virtually to discuss policy initiatives with lawmakers. Read our recap of Habitat on the Hill 2022 here.
Habitat Chesapeake works with partners like the Community Development Network to address these particular needs, starting with offering first-time home-buying opportunities for households at 30 to 80% of local area median income. Habitat homebuyers also participate in education courses and training to prepare them for the complexities of homeownership.
“I think some of the obstacles in 2021 are obstacles that have been there for more than 30 years,” said Randall, on affordable housing initiatives. “I’m always excited to work with Habitat because I think that power and that network that they bring is really important part of this, and does also serve to break down some of the barriers that are in this work.”
According to Randall, one of the largest challenges in the affordable housing industry is a wider community problem: an “obstacle of understanding,” as she puts it. Community members who benefit from affordable housing are all around us but their needs are not always recognized. As the cost of housing increases, many individuals and families find it harder to afford their own homes. “When we talk about proximity and where these folks are, I think we’re seeing them every day, but not seeing what their needs are and how they may be or not be able to afford a house and a home for their children, so I think that’s really important that they’re not invisible.”
With partners like CDN, Habitat Chesapeake works to address these needs. A popular misconception is that Habitat gives away homes – when in reality, Habitat homebuyers partner with Habitat to buy their own homes through an affordable mortgage and investing “sweat equity” hours to build homes throughout their communities. Habitat homebuyers become part of a larger network of homeowners, volunteers, and organizations that come together to build stronger communities.
Over time, that change can make a visible difference. “It doesn’t look the way it did 10 years ago, so that is also a transformation. That community transformation is really exciting,” says Randall, who also noted the growth of new leadership looking to the future. “I also see change, I see a generational change right now also taking place in the community development sector; I see more people of color, I see more younger people being involved in organizations and taking leadership roles. I’m excited about that evolution.”
As Habitat launches a new decade of service, partners like CDN help keep affordable homeownership at the forefront of local policy initiatives. “Habitat is just the such a strong partner in the affordable housing work and the work that the Community Development Network does,” said Randall. “They have this beautiful testament to the power of owning a home for the first time.”
CDN Advocacy Week 2022
Habitat Chesapeake, community organizations, and Maryland residents from across the state joined CDN for their annual Advocacy Week in February. The kickoff event highlighted several key policy focuses, including the need for stable, affordable housing as a component of public health intervention during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as more consistent collection of eviction data across the state.
Notable speakers included Secretary Kenneth Holt from the Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development and CEO of the MD Center of Economic Policy Benjamin Orr. Thank you to Delegates Julie Palakovich, Brooke Lierman, Maggie McIntosh, and others who joined!