Habitat for Humanity faces challenges getting homes to rehab

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Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity of Buffalo has put 305 families in homes around our area.

On Saturday, Habitat dedicated its newest home on Buffalo’s West Side, where Jamila Abagidi and her family will be moving in. They’ve put in hundreds of hours of sweat equity, have taken home ownership and budgeting courses, and have started paying off a 30 year interest free loan to be able to take possession of their house.

Abagidi, who spent seven year in a refugee camp in Kenya after fleeing Ethiopia as a teenager, told News 4 moving in will be a dream come true. “I was dreaming about it, but I never imagined that I was going to be a home owner,” she said.

The Abagidi family is moving into one of four new houses on Busti Avenue that Habitat for Humanity volunteers have built.

Many other local Habitat for Humanity projects involve rehabbing existing homes.

“We go into houses that have been neglected in some way or another and repair those, and put a tax paying family back into those houses,” explained Teresa Bianchi, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Buffalo.

But, Bianchi says it’s getting harder and harder for Habitat to get its hands on houses to fix up.

“People would donate houses. They’d retire in Florida and say, ‘Habitat, take this house and raise another family in it like we’ve raised ours.’ Parents would go into nursing homes and kids would donate their family house for the same reason,” Bianchi said.

Now, though, those donations aren’t coming in. As the local real estate market continues to improve, people are holding onto the homes they would have donated in the past and are selling them for a profit.

“Good for us in Buffalo that the real estate is rising, but for Habitat, it’s been really really difficult for us to get affordable properties,” Bianchi said. “And we just didn’t plan it, and we don’t have the budget to compete with the flippers and compete with the out of town investors that are buying our properties here.”

That’s why Habitat for Humanity needs your help.

They’re partering with community organizations that may have land banked some properties, but they need more people to donate houses, and enjoy the tax benefits that come with that.

And, what Habitat really needs is funding.

“We need funds to go and buy these properties, and it’s not just the material costs that we have to worry about any longer, it’s really the acquisition cost that we have to build into our budget,” Bianchi explained.

Habitat for Humanity is looking for companies to step up and sponsor projects, whether that’s sponsoring a whole build or just one team building day.

As Bianchi said, “$10,000 here, $5,000 here, a thousand, it all adds up.”

And, she says, all of it adds up to a huge difference for families and neighborhoods that benefit from Habitat for Humanity homes.

“We’re not just building houses,” Bianchi said. “We’re building communities, and at the end of the day, we’re really building hope.”

If you’d like to help Habitat for Humanity, you can learn more about ways you can give by clicking here.

Habitat for Humanity of Buffalo is also accepting donations via Venmo now. Just search Habitat Buffalo in the Venmo app to give.

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