Habitat Hillsborough CEO reflects on the MacKenzie Scott gift

Habitat Hillsborough CEO reflects on the MacKenzie Scott gift

Tina Forcier, CEO

We are deeply grateful for the gift we just received from MacKenzie Scott, which will spark significant growth at our organization and enable us to serve more families in need of affordable housing. 

However, this great gift alone cannot solve the housing crisis that our community is currently experiencing.  A family is considered housing cost burdened when they pay more than 30% of their income for housing. The latest data shows that there are 80,000 households in Hillsborough County earning less than the Area Median Income and paying more than 50% of their income for housing.**

You can imagine the crushing financial challenges that these families face every day. We all know that it is nearly impossible to find a modest apartment for $1,000 per month and our homeowner candidates cannot afford to purchase a home with conventional financing in the current marketplace. This is why they come to Habitat for Humanity.  We are able to partner with homeowner applicants who help build their homes (with sweat equity) and who purchase their homes using the combination of an affordable Habitat for Humanity mortgage and down payment assistance available through local programs.  Our approach enables families to achieve financial stability – they no longer have to choose between housing and other necessities like medical care or food.  

Providing homeownership opportunities is challenging! In the last few years, the price of land has soared while the cost to build has increased by approximately $30,000 per home. Currently, the total cost for a new home with land is well above $200,000.  In a traditional funding model utilizing market rate interest bearing mortgages, these homeownership opportunities are not possible for our applicants even with significant down payment assistance (DPA).  But, WE can make homeownership opportunities possible by creating affordable homes and mortgages thanks to generous support from volunteers and donors.  

When you combine the math with the need for affordable homes, the problem can seem staggering. Right now, there are 80,000 households paying over 50% of their income for shelter (and this is not all families in our region that are cost burdened). We are hard at work to provide a solution. If Habitat Hillsborough sold each house at the cost to build it, we would still need funds to keep the organization running to continue helping these families.  Our administrative cost is a lean 12% (based on our last audited financials,) but these funds ensure that our homeowner applicants get the support they need as they navigate the application process, financial documentation and homeownership training to succeed. Administrative costs also enable us to oversee the construction of sound, energy-efficient homes and secure support that keep homes affordable.

This is why it is so important for Habitat Hillsborough to leverage our donated dollars. We will work tirelessly to leverage by applying for government grants and other funding opportunities, operating our ReStores, assigning mortgages to our banking partners to generate cash flow, and utilizing our monthly mortgage payments from homebuyers.  It takes all kinds of funding sources to make it work. We have been blessed with this incredible gift and we will invest in the sustainability of the organization and build capacity to serve more families.  But, we need continued support from our partners and the community to address the enormous need at hand and build more homes than ever to ensure families in our community have a safe, stable place to call home.                    

So, I’ve given you enough facts for one day! I look forward to sharing how Habitat for Humanity’s work closes the wealth gap in our communities, assists in financial education and ensures that the children of Habitat families have more academic success.  I’ll save that for another time, but please know that we appreciate your invaluable, continuing support so we can realize a world where everyone has a decent place to live.


Tina Forcier, CEO
Habitat for Humanity of Hillsborough County


** http://flhousingdata.shimberg.ufl.edu/affordability/results?nid=100000