With four homes in the Thurmont-Emmitsburg area and four more in planning for construction next year, Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County is already helping make homes affordable in the area.
Now the organization has joined Habitat for Humanity organizations across the country to launch a new national advocacy campaign aimed at improving home affordability for 10 million people in the United States over the next five years.
Nearly 19 million households across the United States are spending at least half of their income on a place to live, often forgoing basic necessities such as food and health care to make ends meet. In Frederick County, the ALICE Report from the United Way tells us that 34,688 households, or 39 percent of our local population cannot afford basic needs such as housing, childcare, food, transportation, and health care. The stability that housing should bring continues to remain out of reach for many people.
“We want to start focusing on where the ALICE Report identified the greatest need,” Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County Executive Director Ron Cramer said. Emmitsburg and Thurmont show the highest need, and Brunswick and Frederick City also top the list.
This could benefit Thurmont and Emmitsburg because the towns also have affordable land compared to other locations in the county.
“We build where we find land that we can afford,” Cramer said.
Marking significant growth in Habitat’s commitment to ensuring that everyone has a safe and decent place to call home, the Cost of Home campaign seeks to identify and improve policies and systems through coordinated advocacy efforts at the local, state, and federal levels.
Cost of Home focuses on improving housing affordability across the housing continuum in four specific policy areas: increasing supply and preservation of affordable homes, equitably increasing access to credit, optimizing land use for affordable homes, and ensuring access to and development of communities of opportunity.
Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County already has taken steps toward these goals. The local organization has advocated in the past for a change to the County’s Impact Fee structure, and is now asking local residents to join that effort through the Cost of Home campaign.
Frederick County is one of the only counties in the State that has “flat-rate” impact fees, meaning the fee is the same, regardless of size, type, density, location, or any other factor on the home. A nonprofit homebuilder like Habitat for Humanity can waive these fees; however, if they do so, the fee passes to the low-income homebuyer as a lien on their home. The result is that these flat-rate impact fees have a regressive effect, falling disproportionately on those with lower incomes.
As part of this campaign, Habitat for Humanity of Frederick County is continuing to advocate that the County Council revise the legislation on Impact Fees to make them more affordable for lower-income homebuyers.