The benefits to home ownership are many. Studies have shown that families who own their home experience increased job opportunities, better educational results for their children and more overall stability. As the number of homeowners increases, the amount of blight, crime and overgrown lots decreases.

Fewer absentee landlords mean better-maintained properties, which raise our city’s overall livability. Yet in New Orleans, only about 47.6 percent of full-time residents are homeowners. Which is a shame, because in most cases, owning a home can be more affordable than leasing one.

Relative to pay, New Orleans apartments are some of the most expensive to rent in the country, with local average rents topping out at 35 percent of income. That’s a big chunk out of a paycheck. The average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in New Orleans is $948 per month, according to the National Center for Housing Policy’s September 2014 report.

Meanwhile, the average monthly mortgage for most first-time New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity homeowners is about $700. One reason Habitat mortgages are affordable is our ability as the lender to offer a zero percent interest loan.

Additionally, the use of volunteer labor alongside skilled subcontractors helps contain construction costs.

Becoming a Habitat Homeowner requires more than just being able to pay a mortgage. While not as arduous as some think, Habitat homeowners are indeed partners in the process.

Potential homeowners undergo training in financial fitness and home maintenance. Partner families put in 350 hours of sweat equity by working on their own and other people’s houses and in the ReStore. The entire New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity homeowner process usually takes between 12 and 18 months, from first inquiry to move-in day.

By making housing that is affordable a priority in New Orleans, we help ensure stable communities for everyone in the city.

From artists and chefs to teachers and service industry workers, home ownership improves everyone’s quality of life — regardless if you are a new Habitat homeowner or just living next door to one.

Jim Pate

executive director, New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity

New Orleans