Monday morning, another family will move in to its forever home.
“700 is a massive number,” said Mike Sutton, President of Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas and West Pasco.
On Thursday morning, Sutton stood in front of the house that will be dedicated for the Sakers family on Aug. 31. The fresh yellow paint popped against the backdrop of the gray clouds. Landscaping was completed. The lighting is hung.
This home marked a milestone moment for Sutton.
“When I started, we were on house 280,” he said. “So, we’ve built 420 homes in the last seven-plus years.”
This house marks No. 700 for the Pinellas and West Pasco chapter of Habitat For Humanity. Out of over 1,200 Habitat chapters in the nation, only one is building more homes per year on average than Pinellas and West Pasco. This year, it is on pace to complete 65 homes.
“The Habitat mission is one of the most recognized brands across in the entire world,” said Sutton.
The milestone gives everyone a chance to step back and recognize the contributions all the Tampa Bay Habitat locations have made to providing affordable housing for people in the region.
Pinellas and West Pasco leads the way with 700 completed structures, followed by Sarasota (350+), Hillsborough (200+), East Polk (171), East and Central Pasco County (153), Lakeland (145), and Manatee (139), and more in chapters in surrounding counties.
Those are just total number of physical houses. The number of people impacted by the Habitat program is exponentially higher.
That is the figure that makes Sutton smile.
“We know there is a huge need for affordable housing and the only way we can continue to make a dent in that is to continue to build homes and continue to get families into a new house,” he said.
It’s not just about new home builds for Habitat chapters. In addition to its 145 new builds, Lakeland’s Habitat chapter has helped do repairs to 100 homes.
Many Habitat chapters also contribute to tithing funds to help build homes in other countries. In 34 years, East Polk has been able to help provide 114 houses in Brazil, too.
Habitat of Pinellas and West Pasco celebrated its 600th home in February of 2019. Even slowed by a pandemic, it only took 30 months to complete another 100 houses.
With the construction of every new home, Habitat chapters create affordable homeownership opportunities for local families. Those new homeowners are required to put in “sweat equity” in their homes in the form of manual labor. They get a chance to help construct their house. That endears a pride in the home.
Homeowners also go through financial classes to help learn how to save money. Each homeowner is afforded a zero percent interest mortgage, too.