Habitat for Humanity International reduces staff and other expenses in face of COVID-19 economic impacts

ATLANTA (April 24, 2020) — Global housing nonprofit Habitat for Humanity International is taking several actions to cut expenses in reaction to short- and long-term financial forecasts and operational impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Approximately 10% of staff at the organization will be laid off, and several others will have their work hours reduced. The action will immediately impact its U.S.-based staff, and its regional offices throughout the world in the weeks to come. Among other expense reductions, senior leaders at the organization have elected to take a pay reduction.

“Habitat for Humanity is a ministry of people who share a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “For so many of our team, Habitat is not merely a job—it is a cause. It breaks our hearts to take these significant, but necessary, actions. We are compelled by the economic realities of this global pandemic, and by our responsibility to steward Habitat for Humanity so that we can resume serving our communities as quickly as is safe to do.”

Habitat for Humanity International is the umbrella organization of a federation of local and national Habitat programs operating in all 50 states and in more than 70 countries. Habitat for Humanity International brought in approximately US$300 million in revenue in fiscal year 2019, while the full network is estimated to have earned US$2.3 billion. The network served more than 7 million people last fiscal year, and has helped more than 29 million people access new or improved housing since its founding in 1976.

Habitat’s leadership team is taking the actions with the support of its board of directors, which met in March to discuss the situation.

Since the initial spread of the virus, Habitat has taken several proactive steps to suspend its operations to help prevent the transmission among its volunteers, staff and the people in the communities it serves. These measures have had immediate financial impacts for the organization. Global economic turbulence has also led the donor-funded nonprofit to significantly revise its revenue projections. Many of the local and national Habitat organizations—also facing significant funding shortfalls—have already made similar expense reductions.

Habitat has established a COVID-19 Critical Operations Fund to help safeguard its mission and business continuity efforts. The organization will also soon launch a fundraising campaign — Homes, Communities, Hope + You — which will help the full Habitat network raise support to continue its service.

Individuals who wish to support Habitat for Humanity can donate at habitat.org. Corporations and foundations can visit habitat.org/support/partnerships.

In addition to seeking donor support, Habitat has sought backing from the U.S. government as part of the economic recovery packages considered by Congress. Habitat is encouraging federal leaders to provide funding for nonprofit organizations, which serve unmet needs across society and account for a significant portion of the workforce.

“Nonprofits like Habitat will play an extraordinarily important role in the economic and societal recoveries after the pandemic,” Reckford said. “It’s vitally important that governments and donors act now to support this sector so that we will be ready and able to build back our communities.”

Habitat for Humanity has prioritized the health and safety of its volunteers, staff and the people it served throughout the pandemic:

  • Habitat has suspended the vast majority of its construction activities throughout the United States and around the world.
  • The more than 900 home improvement Habitat ReStores in the U.S. and Canada are closed to the public. These stores provide revenue to support Habitat organizations’ work in local communities.
  • Habitat has suspended its Global Village volunteer builds through the end of 2020. Volunteer fees from these builds provide significant funding for Habitat’s work in many of the more than 70 countries where Habitat operates. The organization has also indefinitely suspended all other volunteer builds involving either domestic or international travel, including its Collegiate Challenge and RV Care-a-Vanners programs.

Habitat will also permanently close the Global Village and Discovery Center, a public education attraction based in Americus, Ga. The GVDC has been closed to the public since March 14, in accordance with public health guidance to limit gatherings and non-essential activities.

While the precautionary measures have limited much of Habitat’s construction work, the organization continues to find ways to serve.

Local Habitat organizations in the United States have donated more than 160,000 N95 respirators and 14,000 Tyvek suits to healthcare providers. This personal protective equipment, normally used by Habitat construction staff and volunteers on build sites, is in strong demand by frontline health workers.

Habitat is also advocating, both in the United States and in the more than 70 other countries where it works, for housing stability during the pandemic crisis. That includes enlisting the support of its staff, volunteers and partners to call for foreclosure and eviction moratoriums as well as housing payment assistance and market liquidity.

The economic impacts of the global pandemic are exacerbating what were already significant housing needs. In the United States, more than 18 million American families were paying half or more of their income on housing prior to the pandemic. Now, with more than 25 million Americans losing their jobs in the last five weeks, the situation has deteriorated significantly, making many more families face impossible choices between their housing payments and providing for life’s other essentials.

Globally, housing conditions in many urban areas threaten to greatly aggravate the public health crisis. People living in slums or other informal housing are not able to physically distance themselves from others, and often do not have access to clean water.

“Housing conditions can literally mean the difference between life and death,” Reckford said. “In any disaster, it is those with the least who are impacted the most. These are the families with whom Habitat partners. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure we are ready and able to answer the call.”

About Habitat for Humanity

Driven by the vision that everyone needs a decent place to live, Habitat for Humanity began in 1976 as a grassroots effort on a community farm in southern Georgia. The Christian housing organization has since grown to become a leading global nonprofit working in local communities across all 50 states in the U.S. and in more than 70 countries. Families and individuals in need of a hand up partner with Habitat for Humanity to build or improve a place they can call home. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or adding a voice to support affordable housing, everyone can help families achieve the strength, stability and self-reliance they need to build better lives for themselves. Through shelter, we empower. To learn more, visit habitat.org.