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Austin Habitat for Humanity gets windfall $8.5 million donation

Friday, March 25, 2022 by Willow Higgins

Austin Habitat for Humanity has received an $8.5 million gift, a much-needed investment that will help the local affiliate expand the number of houses it can build and the number of Austin community members it can serve.

Philanthropist and novelist MacKenzie Scott, who is worth almost $50 billion in part from her stake in Amazon, made a $436 million gift to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 affiliates. The Austin affiliate has received just 2 percent of her gift, a sum large enough to change the scale of what AHFH is able to achieve. The last time the organization was able to afford to buy land for an affordable housing development in Austin was 2013 – Scott’s donation will empower it to do so again.

“This gift is the missing link we needed to purchase the land to build more homes in our service area and grow our pipeline of affordable homeownership products,” said Angel Leverett, AHFH spokesperson. “We are now positioned to expand the number of houses we build each year and adapt our housing products to serve even more families in Central Texas.”

“This extraordinary financial investment is a game-changer that will help build capacity and sustainability for our organization,” the AHFH newsletter read in its announcement of Scott’s donation. “It will provide the resources to purchase the land required to build even more affordable homes for as many families as possible in our service areas of Bastrop, Blanco, Caldwell, Hays, and Travis counties.”

The Habitat for Humanity model is a unique affordable housing option because residents contribute to the construction process. People who meet the qualifying criteria and who are interested in owning a Habitat home are asked to put in 200 hours of “sweat equity” building their future home and their neighbors’ homes. In Austin, the AHFH team helps make sure applicants are financially on track during the construction process and helps them set up a mortgage they can afford.

“Once they finish building their home, they will close on the home and move in,” Leverett explained.

Scott’s investment was only recently announced, so the AHFH team has work to do figuring out the specifics of how best to spend it. But they hope that the money will inspire a wave of affordable housing and generosity in the Austin area, which is suffering through a worsening housing crisis.

“Once we have land, we will need the Central Texas community to come together to help build these homes,” Leverett said. “We hope Ms. Scott’s donation inspires the local philanthropic community to partner with us and advocate for increasing affordable housing across Central Texas.”

Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.

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