by Camaron Brooks
Equity, often a buzzword in the nonprofit sector, is a guiding principle at Habitat for Humanity of San Antonio. Our founder, Faith Lytle, started Habitat on an equitable path with her focus on need. Lytle witnessed unimaginable poverty among children and families on San Antonio’s west side. On a mission, she and a small group of volunteers built the first Habitat home in San Antonio and the world!
The Legacy of Redlining and its Effect on Equity
During the Great Depression, many families faced foreclosure. As a result, the federal government launched the Homeowners Loan Corporation (HOLC) to help refinance mortgages for those families — in turn, it was the beginning of redlining.
redline [verb /ˈredˌlīn/] – to refuse a loan or insurance to someone because they live in an area deemed to be a poor financial risk.
The government marked areas like Hidalgo Street, where the first Habitat house sits, as hazardous for lending. The passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act in 1968 made redlining illegal. Nevertheless, more than thirty years of policy left a devastating impact.
(Click Here to see the City of San Antonio’s Equity Atlas.)
Empowerment and Equity through Habitat
With redlining banned, eight years later in 1976, Lytle witnessed its legacy. Her resolve was to end extreme poverty and create an ecumenical, Christian organization serving the City’s most vulnerable. Over the last 45 years, Habitat has empowered 1,250+ families, mostly BIPOC, in historically low-income areas. Areas like Hidalgo Street still to this day have a population of 90-98% who identify as people of color.
Habitat spent decades building quality affordable homes in impoverished areas, giving low-income families the opportunity to own a home of their own. Today we’re building a neighborhood with an overall combined equity score of 7/10*. The Rancho Carlota neighborhood is located in a developing community ripe for growth.
(Click Here to see the City of San Antonio’s Equity Matrix.)
*The scores that range from 2 to 10 are a combined score of the race and income tabs, indicating that the higher the number, the higher the concentration of both people of color and low-income households in that census tract. Click on a census tract to see the overall combined score that it received and the total population for that tract.
Homeownership is a proven means to wealth accumulation for families in need. A home can shape a family’s future for generations. Families in our program have leveraged their affordable mortgages into investments in higher education, businesses and/or extracurricular activities for their kids.
Did you know, 69% of low-income renter households pay more than 30% of their income on rent? By living paycheck to paycheck, families must choose between rent, food and other basic needs. The cost of renting a three-bedroom apartment in San Antonio averages $1,446. The mortgage payment on a three-bedroom Habitat home costs $750 (including taxes and insurance). Families overburdened by housing costs contribute to persisting cycles of poverty.
Homeownership gives families financial stability and peace of mind. Habitat homes have added $63 million worth of property to area tax rolls. In fact, they’ve done so specifically in low-income areas impacted by the legacy of redlining.
Demographics Of Families Served
Demographics of our homeowners tend to mirror those of the low-income community: 83% Hispanic/Latino, 8% Asian/Pacific Islander, 6% African American, 2% Caucasian, and 1% other.
Families buying Habitat homes are some of our City’s most vulnerable populations earning between 20-80% of the Area Median Income – approximately $34,000 per year per household.
We believe in giving low-income families every tool necessary to be successful homeowners. Our families take 17 homeownership readiness courses and commit to 300 hours of “sweat equity.” Not many of us can say we built our own homes. Proud Habitat homeowners can. Our families tell us their affordable home provides financial stability, peace of mind, and satisfaction. For families historically excluded from the housing market, it’s a means of financial security.
We’re proud of our record on equity. We’ve always served the underserved, and that’s what we’ll continue doing. We do it because families in need deserve an equitable “hand-up.”