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May 17, 2019

Do kids thrive in stable homes?

By Laura Belcher

At Habitat Charlotte, we’ve always felt that kids who grow up in safe, stable Habitat homes had better chances at success. By living in better neighborhoods, with fewer risks, kids could be more like…kids. When families didn’t have to choose between paying for rent, food or health care, parents felt less stress and could focus more on the well-being of their children. Parents told us about the positive impact on their kids’ school performance.

We personally experience the positive energy and momentum by working shoulder-to-shoulder with our Habitat families. Our staff and volunteers share in their pride and joy when they become homeowners. We all feel the amazing impact provided through homeownership.

Yet, however strong we felt these things, we lacked the facts to support the belief that living in a stable home environment helps kid succeed. I am pleased to announce that our intuitions have been validated by results of a multi-year analysis of kids who live in Habitat Homes from UNCC’s Urban Institute. But before I unveil the study’s findings, first let me tell you about JP his Habitat experience.

A home with a backyard lets kids play and express their creativity

An affordable home provides more time to be involved in kids’ studies

In 1992, JP, his pregnant wife, and four children were all living in a two-bedroom apartment at the corner of Central Ave. and Sharon Amity in Charlotte. The young family was quickly outgrowing their apartment, which meant another move, including the likelihood of higher rent for a larger space.

That year J.P. learned of Habitat Charlotte’s New Home Construction program, applied for homeownership, and was accepted into the program.

In 1993, as a Habitat homeowner in process, JP worked side by side with Habitat partners and community volunteers to build his new home in the Villa Heights community. JP has lived there ever since.

The family’s home was now affordable, and provided the stability and space that JP’s growing children needed to flourish. Now, 26 years later, with his kids grown up and out on their own, the house still remains a “home” to which his family returns.

The stability afforded by homeownership removes a family’s anxiety of not knowing how long they will be at their current address. It eliminates the disruption of children having to change schools as economic factors force parents to find more affordable rental housing.

As evidence of this, look no further than JP and two of his kids. His daughter Joya earned her law degree from Florida A&M University, successfully passed the Florida Bar, and is now studying for the North Carolina Bar. And his son Jacob, who graduated from Johnson & Wales with a concentration in restaurant management, is now general manager of a popular Charlotte restaurant.

When asked to reflect on what the Habitat experience has meant to him, JP was quick to respond, “Habitat for Humanity doesn’t just build homes . . . it changes lives.”

A stable home truly unlocks a family’s potential

The UNC Charlotte Urban Institute’s recently completed study, The Effect of Stable Housing on Educational Outcomes and Childhood Well-being, researches the effects of obtaining homeownership through Habitat for Humanity and its impact on childhood well-being in Charlotte Mecklenburg.

The research uses quantitative methods to measure educational outcomes. These include academic performance, and school attendance and behavior. The study also compares public agency utilization and involvement with Food and Nutritional Services, Youth and Family Services and Mecklenburg Sherriff’s Office.

The results from the study confirm the profound impact of stable housing on childhood and family outcomes:

  • Living in a Habitat home significantly improves kids’ educational outcomes
  • Habitat students missed less school and encountered fewer problems while at school
  • Families living in Habitat homes reduced their reliance on social services
  • Families felt that living in a Habitat home both strengthened familial relationships and improved their lives

As we’ve learned, Habitat Charlotte’s impact on area kids’ well-being is significant. Through our mission, we bring people together to build homes, communities, and hope. We invite you to get involved and become part of that mission. Explore the links below to learn more about opportunities to partner with Habitat through homeownership, volunteering and donating. Remember, every action makes an impact, and that together we can build a better Charlotte.

Read the study

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