Homeownership is associated with a slew of positive outcomes: better health, higher likelihood of sustained employment, safer communities, self-sufficiency in families and more. And yet, the dream of homeownership is becoming further out of reach for many families in the St. Louis region.
One in five St. Louisans is classified as “cost-burdened,” meaning they pay an exorbitant amount of their income toward housing. That’s according to Gary Newcomer, a community development specialist with the Community Builders Network of Metro St. Louis.
At Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis, some 5,000 calls per year come in asking for help obtaining affordable housing.
“That’s distressing in a community like St. Louis,” said Kimberly McKinney, the executive director of the organization.
David Noble, a community development and CRA officer with Midland States Bank says there are many people out there who can afford to keep a roof over their heads, pay rent and utilities every month, and yet struggled to access financing in order to buy a home.
“The big issues I see with housing is affordability,” Noble said.” Affordability stretches across all income levels whether low or high income. Right now, we have a challenge in this country with affordable home ownership. If we think a home is the foundation for a family, for the building blocks of our community, it is something we have to address. In St. Louis, in our distressed areas, we have a lot of vacancy. That’s housing opportunity.”
Habitat for Humanity is one of the organizations looking to bridge this gap between people who can afford a home but may struggle to qualify for such financing. McKinney said a common misperception of the program is that they give houses away for free, when in reality families go through a rigorous application process and must be able to handle an affordable mortgage and put in 350 hours of “sweat equity” into the house and life skills/community building classes.
“For us, it is about getting stability in the family,” McKinney said. “If a child doesn’t have to worry about where they’re going to live, they’ll do better in school. Adults go back to school, better themselves and do better at their jobs. They become more involved with their community. We have the families behind the numbers.”
Listen as McKinney, Noble and Newcomer discuss how to increase housing affordability:
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