By Mark Price
Courtesy of The Charlotte Observer

On Friday, Charlotte’s Habitat for Humanity expects to hit the $5 million mark for money invested in revitalizing West Charlotte’s Reid Park community.

That milestone comes at the same time the agency will kick off its 30th anniversary celebration, which proposes to help 42 families with housing in 30 days.

Habitat’s plan is to eventually invest $7 million in Reid Park, with projects including new parks, newly built homes and critically needed repairs to existing homes.

And therein lies one of many reasons Charlotte’s Habitat is considered among the most influential nonprofit home builders in the nation.

In the past decade, it has either launched or helped create models that are now standard practice for Habitat affiliates around the country, among them the concept of revitalizing entire neighborhoods with homes built by charity.

Charlotte Habitat estimates its total economic impact in Charlotte over the past 30 years is $500 million. That includes not only the money it spends on contractors, construction materials, and buying property, but also $10.3 million in property taxes paid by the low income people who bought its homes.

The month-long 30th anniversary celebration is intended to be an unabashed self promotion of its success.

However, community leaders say it’s no exaggeration to call Habitat an important player in the city’s effort to supply more affordable housing for working families struggling to make ends meet.

In the past 30 years, Habitat has built or repaired 1,256 homes, where 5,000 people now live.

Meanwhile, the neighborhoods have benefitted from an increase in homeownership, which is having a bigger influence, said Charlotte City Council member David Howard.

Examples include Optimist Park, which has 60 Habitat homeowners, and Reid Park, where the agency has repaired or built about 50 Habitat homes.

In the latter case, Habitat also bought 24 empty lots that were part of a defunct development plan. It intends to fill them with new homes, though a few are being given to the community as park space.

“They are doing this in neighborhoods that haven’t seen any development in years and to me that is the more important part of what they do,” Howard said.

“They are turning neighborhoods around and when you do that, you’re helping the whole city. They are taking on areas where you have a lot of substandard rentals and turning the tide by putting up single-family homes.”

Charlotte City Council Member LaWana Mayfield added that Habitat is providing this additional housing at a time when federal and state money is tough to find.

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