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“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s never a better time than now for us to stand up for quality, affordable housing. The Fair Housing Act is celebrating on Wednesday 50 years of legislation, which prohibits discrimination in the sale, rental and financing of homes based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability and family status.

President Lyndon Johnson signed Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 into law shortly after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s tragic death. Dr. King, and many others, fought for equal and affordable housing as part of the Civil Rights Movement. The Fair Housing Act was bipartisan and celebrated the efforts Dr. King led in treating all people fairly and equally.

Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln transforms lives and communities by building quality, affordable homes with families in need — and by uniting our community around the cause of affordable housing. With the help of thousands of volunteers each year, Habitat Lincoln builds, repairs and preserves single family homes across Lancaster County.

Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln is celebrating 30 years of serving low-income working families in Lancaster County, many of whom are paying 50 percent or more of their income on rent and are living in overcrowded, unsafe or unhealthy conditions. We assist Habitat homeowners with financial counseling prior to the purchase of their houses, and we continue to support families after they’ve moved in.

More than 84 percent of Habitat Lincoln homeowners still reside in their Habitat homes, including Beth, the daughter of Habitat Lincoln’s first homeowner, who is now raising her family in the first Habitat Lincoln home built in 1989. Our homes become a lifelong investment for families who otherwise could not realize the American dream of homeownership. These statistics are a testament that this program works — helping low-income families become self-sufficient and end the cycle of poverty.

At a time when housing needs across our country are more critical than ever, we need to protect these vital programs that help provide safe, healthy homes in partnership with thousands of families every year. Habitat Lincoln has built or repaired 156 homes because of the community support we’ve received over the last 30 years.

With the growing demand for affordable housing, plus the threat to the federal funding — such as the Home Investment Partnership Program funds, administered through Lincoln — we will need more support from the community to continue to meet the growing demand of decent, affordable homes in Lancaster County.

Last year, we received more than 85 applications for our homeownership program — a 21 percent increase from the previous year. The cost of construction continues to go up. And the availability of infill lots and single-family homes becomes an even greater challenge.

We have the determination to respond to the challenge. But we know we can’t do it alone. Together, we can make a bigger impact.

It's easy to get involved with Habitat Lincoln: Volunteer on our construction site, attend an event, contact us about available lots, support and sponsor a build or donate in-kind building materials or subcontracting labor.

If everyone in Lancaster County donated just $1, we could serve three more families. If one in three Lincoln residents donated $30 in honor of our 30th anniversary, we could serve 20 more families. Every little bit helps make a difference.

Helping more people build and improve decent places to call home only serves to strengthen the fabric and economies of the cities and towns in which we all live and work.

Josh Hanshaw is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Lincoln.


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