Women around the world take on issue of housing affordability

By: Jennifer Weber, Lowe’s executive vice president, human resources
Adrienne Goolsby, Habitat for Humanity International’s senior vice president, U.S. and Canada
A place to call home. Nutritious food. Health care. Quality education. Reliable transportation. Which would you choose?

One in six American families must make that unenviable choice every day, as nearly 19 million United States households spend half or more of their income on a place to live. We regularly hear about soaring rent and homeownership costs. Real median rents have increased by 70 percent since 2000. Wages aren’t keeping pace; average incomes have remained flat for many Americans over the last two decades.

Yet the problem we face is even bigger.

Every day, people across America are faced with the seemingly insurmountable task of finding one of life’s most basic requirements – a home. While the current state of housing may not be news to some, the fact that women, especially women headed households, are impacted the most by affordable housing issues in the United States might be. Research has found that nearly one in three single mothers live below the poverty line.

The affordable housing crisis extends beyond the United States. In Canada, an estimated one-in-eight households do not meet the country’s core housing standards of adequacy, suitability or affordability. In India, nearly 19 million households are without adequate housing in cities.

Habitat for Humanity and Lowe’s have joined forces again to raise awareness (and a hammer) for housing issues facing women and their families, including empowering them with the skills and confidence to address housing affordability, one build at a time.

Given the overwhelming power of women to make a difference in their communities and for one another, we’re leveraging the strength of our partnership to host International Women Build Week. Taking place March 1-8 as a prelude to International Women’s Day, Habitat for Humanity, Lowe’s and more than 6,000 women volunteers will unite to build and improve homes in more than 235 communities in the U.S., India and Canada.

History has proven that women and their families have the power to enact remarkable change and spark meaningful conversations. That’s why it should come as no surprise that more than 138,000 women volunteers have come together to renovate or repair more than 5,325 homes through our 12-year partnership on Women Build.

As community leaders and business executives, we’ve had the unique privilege of witnessing, up-close, the power this initiative has had in hundreds of communities across the globe. We have built walls and installed roofs – and we have experienced overwhelming pride, humility and a sense of accomplishment alongside hundreds of women who are building their future homes. From the dedication of our volunteers to seeing deserving families find a renewed sense of hope and purpose is what drives our efforts forward.

As we grab our hardhats and hammers for this year’s build, our focus is clear: spread a message of women’s empowerment, unity, awareness and action. Through Women Build, Habitat and Lowe’s are encouraging women to join a community of other women to build up their skills and confidence to tackle this issue head on.

Homes shouldn’t cost women their health or their children’s education, but 60 percent of impoverished children live in households headed by women. This is significant because having access to affordable housing transforms lives. Children have access to better education by reducing the frequency of disruptive moves and gaining the support of holistic community development. Younger children living in affordable homes also have a greater propensity for positive emotional and behavioral development.

Those are the types of opportunities we all strive to provide for our children – and they are the opportunities we bring to life with Women Build opportunities throughout the year. Women Build projects are ongoing, across the country and throughout the year. We invite everyone to join us in our effort to inspire change around the world.

Together, we can work to make the cost of home something we can all afford. Learn more at habitat.org/womenbuild.

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