Save the date for Music Fest! Hear local church choirs sing for Lawrence Habitat on February 10 from 6-8 p.m. at First United Methodist Church, 946 Vermont St.
Music Fest gives local churches a chance to come together and share the gift of song, all while promoting Lawrence Habitat for Humanity. While the event is free and open to the public, donations are accepted.
First United Methodist Church is hosting Music Fest this year. Their director of music and worship, Sara Wentz, is putting together the program and coordinating the participating church choirs.
NEW this year — Dr. Matthew Potterton, the director of chorale activites at Baker University, will be conducting the all-choir number at the end of the program. Dr. Potterton has conducted the choruses for the Baker University’s Annual Christmas Candlelight Vespers since he was hired by Baker in 2009. You can read more about Dr. Potterton here.
The churches performing at Music Fest are: First United Methodist Church, First Baptist Church, Peace Mennonite, Trinity Lutheran, Good Shepherd Lutheran and Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
This year, Lawrence Habitat’s covenant churches are sponsoring a Building on Faith house. The Music Fest is just one way that our churches help provide funding for the materials that go into a Lawrence Habitat home.
Nail Drive Ceremony: Saturday, November 17 at 9 a.m. 208 N. Comfort Lane
Lawrence Habitat is getting ready to start its 81st home and the newest soon-to-be homeowner has been waiting five years for the day to arrive. Xueying Wang left Beijing, China, for Lawrence, Kansas, in 2003. The change from a large, crowded metropolis to a smaller town in the United States was a good one for Xueying, or Ying for short.
Ying applied for Habitat home because she says in the Chinese culture, a family isn’t stable if they don’t have a home. “It’s like grass blowing in the wind,” she said. She knew she couldn’t afford to pay a mortgage on a home and Habitat was the best option for her family. “I wanted a stable and safe life,” Ying said. “I want my kids to be secure.”
Ying has two children, a 20-year-old son who is studying at Johnson County Community college, and a 6-year-old daughter, a first grader at St. John Catholic School. Ying is a student herself. She just started taking classes at Neosho Community College toward a degree in surgical technology. Her 70-year-old mother will also live at their new four-bedroom home at 208 N. Comfort Lane.
Ying said that while working on her sweat equity, she’s worked on many other Habitat homes and has met a lot of different people. She also picked up some tips about construction and home maintenance.
“I’ve been waiting for this day,” Ying said. Ying’s home will officially begin at a nail drive ceremony being held November 17 at 9 a.m.
Yesterday, I took a tiny field trip to our current build site at 1933 Maple Lane. The reason I rushed out there (in heels, no less) was because our construction manager, Mark, had just called our executive director, Tracie, to let her know there had been a break in.
Someone (or a few people) tried to get into our 80th home just days before its dedication. Once I got to the house, I realized that Habitat homes aren’t exactly easy to break into. Just a testament to our great volunteers led by Mark who build for months to complete a home for a family in need.
The “Habitat home wreckers” (my name for the person, or group of mean people) tried to get into all three windows on the north side of the house with a crowbar. They failed each time. They finally gave up and just broke one of the windows, opened it and crawled into the house.
The “HHW” then went for what is very clearly the laundry room and started busting in the walls. In my opinion, not that I’m a crime spree expert, is that they were going for copper. During my time as a reporter, this happens pretty often, especially in a down economy.
Nothing was taken and no one was hurt (since the family hasn’t moved in yet), but it’s a little disheartening, especially when the house is so close to being done and is set to be dedicated on Saturday.
The dedication will happen as planned, though! And we’re happy to have great volunteers that build homes that are hard to break into!
Can you imagine paying thousands of dollars to bike from coast to coast and build houses along the way? That's exactly what about 30 young cyclists are doing this summer and they've pedaled their way into Lawrence.
The team has already traveled over 1, 770 miles on their trek from Providence, R.I., to Half Moon Bay, Calif. Lawrence is about the halfway point. What's great this year is that a recent KU grad, Josh Burdett, happens to be a member of this BIke & Build group. He's already been showing his teammates around town and so far, they seem to be very impressed.
We've had Bike & Build groups come to town through the years and the reviews about Lawrence are nothing short of amazing. They've been sleeping on floors of churches and YMCAs for most of their trip. But thanks to Spring Hill Suites here in Lawrence, the group is spending their time in town with beds and showers in the same room! The hotel also donated Gatorade, waters and snacks for the riders.
I was there to greet the riders -- I think I managed to meet every single one of them -- and they immediately said they heard Lawrence had an amazing bike shop. They needed directions immediately. The staff at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike Shop stunned all the riders that spent time there. One of the riders says it's the best bike shop they've been to in their cross-country trip.
Last night, the Habitat staff spent time with the group at Johnny's North since the restaurant generously donated pizzas and fresh corn on the cob. The group is full of great kids that really believe in their mission to bring awareness to affordable housing. They're from all over the country and are excited to be able to spend three nights in the same town. One of the girls said staying in Lawrence was like a vacation!
They started building this morning. You can see pictures on our Facebook page.
You can read all about Bike & Build here. This group of 20-somethings is stellar. They are so excited to build for a few days and see Lawrence. Our construction manager, Mark Brooks, told me this morning that this group is one of the hardest working they've had.
Believe it or not, I covered Bike & Build when I worked at the Lawrence Journal-World. You can check out the video here.
In the past few weeks, I've written about the impact that affordable housing has on both economic development and education. The third and final piece of the Center for Housing Policy's research on affordable housing is its impact on health.
The connection between affordable housing and health isn't new. Researchers broadly acknowledge that making an effort to prevent children's exposure to lead paint in homes has reduced lead poisoning and health problems associated with it.
Based on the Center for Housing Policy's latest glance at academic literature -- a few hypotheses came to the forefront regarding affordable housing and health.
Instead of breaking all of them down, it's more interesting to me to simply look at the list of the possible ways affordable housing might positively impact health. If you're so inclined, you can read the full report here.
Affordable housing may impact health by:
- freeing up funds for healthy food and health care costs
- reducing stress and related adverse health outcomes
- impacting mental health by increasing control over one's physical environment
- reducing health problems caused by poor quality housing
- reducing stress, increasing access to amenities (like walking trails) and generating health benefits (like those from walking)
- alleviating crowing and exposure to stressors and infections diseases
- using green building strategies to reduce pollutants, energy costs and increasing home comfort
I think a lot of these make plenty of sense. Lawrence Habitat uses home visits to potential partner families to gauge current living situations. And the need for affordable housing is definitely out there.
What do you think about the list? Do you think affordable housing can impact that entire list? What else could show up on that list?
Last week, I broke down a study from the Center for Housing Policy on the impact that affordable housing has on the economy. Today, I’ll take a look at another study by the CHP – this one looks at the impacts of affordable housing on education.
Education is obviously a big deal in this town, being home to Kansas University, a large public school system and a few private schools, too. (And trust me, I’m well aware of Lawrence’s keen eye on education, having spent a few years as the K-12 education reporter for the Lawrence Journal-World.)
The Center for Housing Policy’s research summary makes note of a more and more research leans toward the idea that stable, affordable housing might give children more opportunities for education success. The study mentions that while schools and teachers are ones charged with teaching students, a supportive and stable home complements the efforts of educators. That ultimately leads to better student achievement.
There are just a few points I wanted to highlight from the research summary on this topic. Studies have started to associate overcrowding with reduced academic performance by children. Research finds that children who grow up in overcrowded housing have lower math and reading scores, finish fewer years of school and are less likely to graduate high school.
There are a few reasons behind these findings. Overcrowding might reduce how responsive parents are and that can lead to social overload and withdrawal. Another reason can be increased noise and chaos, interfering with a child’s studies and cognitive development.
Affordable housing can help families afford decent homes of their own, potentially helping their children increase their education achievement.
The other main point I picked out of the study’s summary is that well-built and maintained can help eliminate housing-related health hazards, like lead poisoning and asthma. Now, I know this is about affordable housing’s impact on education, but those health issues can lead to students missing school, ultimately affecting their learning. Poor housing conditions contribute to the incidence of asthma, another reason kids are absent from school.
So, not only does affordable housing impact economic development, it can also affect the education of future generations. You can read the entire summary here.
For the final part of my series on the impacts of affordable housing, I’ll break down a study on the affects it has on health.
When you look around Lawrence, especially near downtown or the campus of Kansas University, it appears that housing isn’t much of a problem. It seems like there are more apartments than KU students and not very many empty lots exist near the population center of Douglas County. But a glance at the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau statistics paints a very different picture. (You can browse stats here.)
According to Habitat for Humanity International, 95 million people in the United States have some sort of housing problem, including overcrowding, poor shelter quality and homelessness. One issue that isn’t as prevalent is just how much of a person’s income goes toward paying for a mortgage or rent. In Douglas County, over 9,000 people spend more than 35 percent of their household income on rent. Of the more than 19,000 units being rented, HALF of tenants spend a third or more of their income to have a roof over their heads.
Renting is the way to go for a lot of people in Lawrence, especially since we’re a college town with a large co-ed population and plenty of apartments. The homeownership rate in Douglas County is 53.5 percent. When you look at Lawrence alone, that number drops to 46.7 percent. The median value of an owner-occupied housing unit is $176,500 in the county and $172,900 in Lawrence. Over 23 percent of the people residing in Lawrence live below the poverty level.
This is why Habitat for Humanity exists. The need is everywhere, including here in our backyard. Lawrence Habitat has given 79 families the chance to be homeowners since 1989. We’re working with our 80th family. And five families are in line for homes in the next few years. But Lawrence Habitat is running out of land. We have just a few lots left in Lawrence. We also have one in Eudora and one in Baldwin City.
A major misconception about Habitat for Humanity is that we just build homes and give them away. Nothing could be further from the truth. Lawrence Habitat partners with families that make between 30 and 60 percent of the local median income laid out by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (More on that later.) Our partner families pay a zero-interest mortgage and closing costs on their home. Each adult in the family is also required to put in 225 hours of “sweat equity.” They help build their own home and the homes of other partner families.
When it comes to median income, Lawrence’s numbers are up there. For a family of four in Lawrence, the median income is $71,500. To put that into perspective here are how some other Kansas metropolitan areas line up:
Lawrence is much closer to Kansas City than it is to Topeka and Wichita, making housing even less affordable for low and moderate income families in Lawrence. The need exists and we need everyone’s help to provide safe and decent homes for those families trying to work toward the dream of owning a home. Next up – why home ownership is important and how affordable housing benefits the economy.
Lawrence Habitat for Humanity is in the house! (Get it?)
We'll be using this blog to keep everyone on top of what Lawrence Habitat is building and hopefully convince a few people to swing a hammer this summer on our latest build site!
Currently, LHfH is building its 80th house! We're excited about partnering with another great family to provide safe, decent and affordable housing here in Lawrence.
Our 80th partner family's patron, Hameed Yusuf, came to the United States from Nigeria. He had a friend tell him about a Midwestern town called Lawrence. He settled here and eventually brought over his wife and five children. They now call Lawrence home. Hameed works at Berry Plastics. His wife, Asikat, is employed at Kinedyne Corp. Four of the Hameed children are in college and the youngest is a student at Lawrence High.
Hameed says his family is very grateful to be chosen to partner with Lawrence Habitat for Humanity. They’ve been waiting patiently to build their home for the past three years. Hameed, a man of faith, says he is extremely thankful for the opportunity to own a home and for all the supporters of the organization.
But the home isn't just given to our partner families. Each adult in the family will put in 250 "sweat equity" hours, volunteering for Habitat, either at our ReStore or on build sites. The partner families pay for their homes through zero-interest loans. They really do earn the American dream of homeownership.
Check out the Hameed nail drive ceremony below.
And don't forget to join our group!