Home Builders Give Communities a Hand Up  

Custom home builder Tom Gipson from Raleigh, N.C., doesn’t shy away from a challenge. In fact, 16 years ago he came up with an idea to build hundreds of homes in one week for Habitat for Humanity.   

That idea blossomed into the Habitat for Humanity Home Builders Blitz (HBB), which has helped forge a path to affordable homeownership for more than 2,500 families. The program has been so successful in its innovative approach that it recently received a Best in American Living Award 

Gipson initially got involved with Habitat through his church. He loved it, and believed other professional home builders would too. But he recognized that most would struggle fitting the additional work into their already busy schedules. By condensing a build into one week, Gipson reasoned, more people would participate.   

He wanted to test his theory locally first. So in 2002, he and 11 of his competitors took a week off from their day jobs to build 12 houses. It was such a success, they decided to double the number and go for 24 the next year.   

habitat for humanity

The first wall is raised during the opening ceremony of a Home Builders Blitz in Sanford, Fla. © Habitat for Humanity International/Ezra Millstein

Shortly thereafter, Gipson met with Habitat co-founder Millard Fuller to discuss his original idea. Fuller jumped on it and in 2006 HBB kicked off a week-long build that resulted in 459 new homes nationwide.  

Since the program’s inception, thousands of home builders, subcontractors and suppliers have invested their time, talent and sometimes their capital building affordable homes in their communities.   

Once completed, each of these homes is presented to a family that needs decent, affordable housing — but not for free. Applicants must meet certain income requirements and demonstrate an ability to pay an affordable mortgage to become Habitat home owners.   

Additionally, future home owners typically have to put in 200 or more hours of sweat equity into building their own homes and the homes of others in the program, and attend classes in personal finance, home maintenance and other relevant topics.   

Here’s How It Works

Habitat organizations across the country annually sign up to hold a build week in their local area; they are responsible for securing the land and vetting future homeowners who will purchase the homes upon their completion. Local home builders donate crews, labor and materials to help build the homes – usually just one or two – in one week. National and local sponsors and donors provide additional materials and cash donations to the projects.

Whether you’re a home builder, subcontractor or supplier, there are a lot of good reasons to get involved with HBB.  

For starters, it’s an excellent networking and professional development opportunity. Home builders can try new building methods, products, services and techniques that can help streamline and reduce their own schedules and processes, while suppliers are encouraged to use the build as an opportunity to share new products and services with their target audiences.    

“Participating home builders and suppliers help strengthen the capacity of local Habitats by allowing them to boost production without significantly increasing their overhead or overextending their structure,” said Sue Henderson, Habitat’s vice president of U.S. operations. 

 “The collaboration also allows home builders to see how Habitat incorporates green building and universal design concepts into affordable homes, both of which are steadily becoming more mainstream in real estate,” she added.   

Another bonus: It’s not uncommon for people who participate in just one Habitat build to become lifelong volunteers and advocates of the organization’s mission. 

Gipson, now 75, still actively volunteers with HBB, traveling around the country recruiting other volunteers and donors.  

“It’s a wonderful way for a home builder to give to their community,” he said. “I asked a friend once why he did it. He said: ‘How else in one week’s time could I make a contribution to my community of this significance?'”  

It works for subcontractors and suppliers too, Gipson added. “My painter can paint the houses for free and it’ll cost him maybe $2,000 in-kind. But if I just asked him for $2,000, he probably couldn’t and wouldn’t do it,” Gipson said. 

The next HBB will take place Sept. 9-13, 2019. Meet the HBB team in person when they exhibit at the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas Feb. 19-21.

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