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Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver Q&A: Robyn Burns


Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis co-hosted Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver’s annual CEO build.

What does Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver do? **"Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver is a home ownership program for low-income families. We have been building, rehabbing and repairing homes throughout the community for 36 years. We really are a community-based organization that relies on support from the community through volunteerism and sponsorships and financial investments to be able to do what we do. Since 1979, we have served more than 600 local families. In 2015 we plan on serving 95 additional facilities through new home construction, critical home repairs and sponsoring homes in partnering countries around the world."

Who benefits from your services?"We work with low-income families, so these are people who work hard—sometimes multiple jobs—to try to make ends meet for their family but they don't make enough money to qualify for traditional home mortgage loans. So we select families into our home ownership program based on three sets of criteria. One is that they have to have a need for housing and that could look vastly different depending on each family's situation. A lot of times it's living in overcrowded situations or paying too much of their monthly income for rent or living in unsafe or unsanitary conditions. The second criterion is their willingness to partner with us. We ask that every partner family invest 200 hours of sweat equity to help build their home and the homes of other partner homebuyer families as well as take homebuyer education courses. We want to make sure they have all of the resources to be successful at home ownership. To date, we have less than a 2 percent foreclosure rate, which is pretty remarkable when you look at other averages out there in the community and these are people who don't qualify for traditional home mortgage loans. So it's something we're very proud of. The third criterion is their ability to pay. A big misconception about our program is people think we give our homes away, which isn't true. We sell our homes to these low-income families with the best deal in town, it's an affordable, zero-percent interest mortgage and then we base their monthly payments off of their income ensuring they're not going to spend more than 30 percent of their gross monthly income towards housing or towards their monthly mortgage payment."

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about the people you serve and the work Habitat does?"A big misconception about Habitat's program is that we work with the homeless and we give our homes away, which is the furthest from the truth. We work with really hard-working families who do make an income; it's just that they're in the low-income bracket. So especially in a community like Denver, which is growing in popularity and housing costs are just rising, it's harder and harder for low-income households to find adequate housing for their families. We work with the families that work hard and are trying to make ends meet in providing that healthy, affordable home for them. And then the other misconception is we give our homes away, which is not true. We sell them with a zero-percent interest mortgage."

Do the families receiving a Habitat home partake in any of the building?"That's such a critical component of our program—families are not passive participants. They're very active participants in Habitat's programs. They invest a total 200 hours of sweat equity helping build their homes and the other homes of their neighbors and other partner families."

What is the House for a House program?"Habitat for Humanity is committed to being part of the solution to poverty housing both locally and globally. As part of that, we here in Metro Denver commit to sponsor the construction of a home in another country for every home we build locally. It's a way for us to really engage with and impact families not just here in our own community but around the world because there's so much need and the need really different depending on what country or what community you're looking at. To be able to make an impact with some of the Habitat affiliates around the world is something that we really hold dear to our hearts."

What are some different ways people can support Habitat?"There are so many ways to get involved with Habitat for Humanity. One is by volunteering with us. We work with about 15,000 local volunteers just here in Denver every year. We use volunteers for just about every facet of our program from helping us to build our homes on the construction sites to helping out in our ReStores, which are home improvement outlets to helping us in the office or working on one of our committees to raise funds and build additional homes. Donating is another big way we look to engage in the community. We look for financial contributions to help us purchase the building materials for each home. Getting involved with our ReStores by either shopping there for low-cost home improvement materials or donating products that you have in your home or materials that you have in your home that you're looking to—say you're looking to buy new furniture for your living room and you're looking for somewhere to get rid of your couches and your end tables, we love those types of donations at our ReStores. Then really just connecting with us as an organization either through our website or on social media to help share the type of work that Habitat is doing and the need for more housing solutions and more affordable housing in our community."

What are the Habitat ReStores?
"Right now we have four ReStores that are open in our community. Those are home improvement outlets that accept donations from the public of new or used materials—a lot of times its furniture, appliances, cabinetry—any of those goods that you could use as home improvement or furnishing for your home. Then our ReStores are resale stores that are open to the public and all these recycled materials are resold at a significant discount compared to retail. Habitat ReStores are a great community resource for residents that are seeking low-cost alternatives to home building and home renovation. Right now we have four stores open; we are in Denver, Wheat Ridge, Littleton and Aurora so we really are covering a lot of the Metro Denver area."

What is Habitat's relationship with the Denver Broncos?"Habitat for Humanity for Metro Denver has been a proud community partner of the Denver Broncos since 2012. Broncos players, wives, staff and cheerleaders have all come out and volunteered at our construction site swinging hammers and helping build affordable homes side-by-side with our partner families and community volunteers. In addition to volunteering, the Denver Broncos have helped sponsor our homes and help us purchase the building materials needed and just have been such a great community partner of us."

What was the CEO Build this year?"We were lucky enough to partner with the Broncos President and CEO Joe Ellis, who co-hosted our CEO Build, which is where 40 local business leaders join together to help build and fund an entire Habitat home. During the day, participants and their companies helped us raise $85,000 which was what we needed to purchase all the building materials for one home. These executives really traded in their ties and instead put on tool belts for the day and worked side-by-side on five homes, which really helped make an impact not just on one family's life, but five families lives and an entire neighborhood and community."

What is something you'd like people to know about Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver?"We joke that we have events year-round and build homes year-round, we always are looking for more community support. If you've never been involved with Habitat before we strongly encourage you to come out, swing a hammer with us, help us build homes and hopefully you'll be inspired to get even more involved with us."

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