By ANA RISANO
Habitat for Humanity of the N.C. Sandhills was chosen as one of two affiliates to receive aid in strategic planning this year, providing the organization with a plan for the next three to five years.
Sandhills Habitat was awarded this opportunity as a recipient of the Capacity Build grant. Habitat received the award in 2021 to expand its repairs program for the disabled and elderly.
The grant came from Habitat International and is awarded to just 15 of the more than 1000 affiliates each year who “display a capacity to increase their production,” Executive Director Amie Fraley said. “Essentially, it is to hire a high-impact staff person.”
Sandhills Habitat hired Jim Parsons as its Aging in Place coordinator in 2021. He has over 30 years of construction experience. Parsons assesses applications for critical repairs from community members and matches projects with available funding.
The homeowner pays about 25 percent of the material costs through this program. Most repairs are not conducive to volunteer work and are instead subcontracted to professionals, except when it comes to building ramps. The most common repair work often entails window, roof, HVAC and septic tank replacements.
The Capacity Build grant covered 100 percent of Parsons’ position for the first year and has incrementally decreased, with the idea that Sandhills Habitat can support his work after three years. Fraley said the funds help them to get up and running before feeling the full financial impact.
Sandhills Habitat has grown from less than 10 repairs to over 60 repairs in a year because of the grant. Fraley believes this will be consistent going forward.
“We’re a great link for lower-income families who have trouble getting services like roof replacements … and by doing it in the way we do it, everybody is a partner in it, and it just helps more people get to secure repairs,” Fraley said.
Strategic planning began at the end of January with the arrival of Habitat consultant Tami Page. She held interviews and focus groups with volunteers, staff and community members to learn more about what they would like to see from Sandhills Habitat in the future. She presented her findings to staff and board members on Jan. 29.
Fraley said they receive two main areas of feedback. The community wants Habitat to continue to grow its repair program and create varied types of homeownership opportunities, like multi-family units, to improve land use and be mindful of what people want.
Another piece of feedback from the community was its appreciation for how much Habitat communicates with the neighborhoods it serves, especially compared to private developers.
Habitat’s goal is to meet with the community and to hear their thoughts before building. Fraley gave an example of a build in West Southern Pines. The houses in the area were all brick, and the community wanted the same reflected in the Habitat home. But to build with all brick was not a feasible option because of the increased cost. Instead, Habitat contractor Farrah Newman suggested doing just a brick front.
This compromise met both the needs of the neighborhood and Habitat because representatives took the time to develop relationships and be “mindful” in their partnership.
The strategic plan will be developed over the next few months to plan out the next three to five years.
“It’s good to have a little road map of what you’re hoping for,” Fraley said. “As I look back on our last one that expires now, oh my gosh, we never would have known. We did our last one in 2019, so pre-COVID, pre-construction insanity, pre-land costs like we have now.”
Fraley said a big focus for the next five years is to increase partnerships because of the “bubbled up” concern of “available and attainable” workforce housing.
“We’ve been sort of seeing it coming, and saying, ‘hey,’ but now it’s getting up to this level where employers are super worried about it …” Fraley said. “But nobody really knows how to do it, and we’re like, ‘Hey, guess what? We do. We know how to do it.’”
She hopes Sandhills Habitat will develop large-scale partners to address this issue since Habitat already has a model for development.
Sandhills Habitat has some land prospects on the horizon for this year and is looking forward to developing more community partnerships to address affordability issues across its service area.
The annual gala is the next fundraising and celebratory event for Sandhills Habitat. It will be on Saturday. April 1 at 6 p.m. at Pinehurst Country Club. Tickets are available at Habitatgala.org.
For more information about Habitat, go to sandhillshabitat.org or contact them at (910) 295-1934.
Contact Ana Risano at (910) 585-6396 or firstname.lastname@example.org.