Noel Sindihokubwabo remembers the date exactly: Dec. 3, 2012.
On that day, he and his family moved from an apartment in downtown Dallas to the home they helped build with Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity. They would miss nothing about the old place. The high turnover rate in the building left Noel with no sense of his neighbors, and his wife Claudine Nizigyimana found their lack of privacy upsetting.
In their new home, the family feels more free. Noel and Claudine’s five children have a space to read after school, and they can play outside, something frequent street violence prevented in their former neighborhood.
The U.S. Congress had this kind of transformation in mind when, in 2008, it established the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, aimed at improving communities beleaguered by foreclosures and abandoned properties. The grant program has helped many Habitat affiliates, including Dallas Area Habitat. Because of the boost that government programs can have for Habitat efforts in the United States, particularly around capacity building, Habitat regularly advocates for initiatives that positively influence affordable housing. That impact can mean changed lives for families like the Sindihokubwabo-Nizigyimanas.
In addition to the physical and emotional security his family now enjoys, Noel welcomes the financial stability that homeownership provides. “When I pay my money,” he says, “I know that I’m depositing it somewhere. One day the house will be mine — and it will be there for our kids.”
To this family of seven who came to the United States from Ghana, this house is much more than four walls and a roof. It is freedom. Freedom from danger. Freedom from unwelcome intrusions. Freedom to study and play. And freedom to grow together as a family.
When they moved in, the neighborhood had high expectations of Noel, Claudine and their children. Moving into a Habitat home, Noel explains, means neighbors trust them and expect good behavior. But it also means continuing support after the home is finished. “We feel safe,” he says. “If something happens, my neighbor looks out for me. We’re family.”
Stories like the Sindihokubwabo-Nizigyimana family’s inspire Habitat to advocate for programs that support affordable housing. One such program is the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which helps nonprofit organizations like Habitat cover the most costly aspects of affordable housing development: acquiring land and purchasing foreclosed and abandoned properties. Like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, SHOP has significantly boosted Habitat’s efforts in the United States.
To date, more than 600 Habitat affiliates receiving SHOP funds have completed 15,700 homes. Habitat homeowner families have grown more than $187 million in federal funds into $417 million in home equity. As successful as the program has been, SHOP funds aren’t guaranteed. Habitat annually urges Congress to allocate funds for this important program. Individual advocates, engaging their representatives on this issue, are instrumental in that process.
For the Sindihokubwabo-Nizigyimana family, homeownership would not have been possible without smart programs that leverage federal dollars for affordable housing. At this year’s Habitat on the Hill, affiliate representatives and volunteers urged lawmakers to continue supporting stable neighborhoods by protecting federal programs like SHOP and NSP, programs that allow Habitat affiliates to help more families find the freedom and stability of affordable homeownership.
To help ensure that these types of programs continue to help families like the Sindihokubwabo-Nizigyimanas, let your voice be heard. Take action now.