Through Block’s partnership with Habitat, communities see benefits of affordable housing, new connections

June 17, 2021 : H&R Block

The first new home built in the Lykins neighborhood of Kansas City in 20 years is for Habitat for Humanity homeowner Elizabeth Francis. At her wall raising, Francis said, “It’s a new chapter and new beginning for my family.”

The Francis family outside their future home
Elizabeth Francis (left) with her mother and son on the lot of her future home.

Safe housing is commonly recognized as a key factor in achieving health equity in communities, yet on any given day millions of families in the U.S. lack access to safe, affordable and healthy housing.

According to Habitat for Humanity, more than 50 million people in the U.S. live in distressed communities. Residents face negative health impacts as a result, along with substandard housing, abandoned buildings and vacant lots. (Urban Institute, 2017). In fact, poor neighborhood conditions combine to negatively impact a community’s connections—meaning, residents may be more isolated and lose important social ties with their neighbors.

 “I have lived in the Lykins neighborhood for 9 years,” said Francis. “Being a homeowner, it’s going to mean a lot—security, stability for raising my son.” Beyond that, Francis says she appreciates the cultural diversity in the neighborhood and getting to know people through neighborhood meetings. She is also excited about coming renovations to the nearby park where she and her son will go to play.

“This is an old growth neighborhood. It’s been decimated not by fire but decades of neglect,” said Greg Lombardi, executive director of the Lykins Neighborhood Association. “Now we’re very fortunate that there’s this organic change coming. Partners like Habitat, like H&R Block, are making it happen.”

Through a national partnership with Habitat for Humanity, H&R Block is supporting neighborhood revitalization efforts, like the one in Lykins that will improve access to housing and the spaces in neighborhoods where people can connect.

Thanks in large part to the vision of Habitat for Humanity Kansas City, Lykins is seeing new change as the neighborhood comes together to repair, restore, and improve blighted properties and houses. 

Habitat for Humanity KC president and CEO Pat Turner
Habitat for Humanity KC president and
CEO Pat Turner

“We believe that if we fix up one block at a time, it will have that ripple effect throughout a community,” said Pat Turner, president and CEO, Habitat for Humanity Kansas City. “We talk about building healthy communities. This is a perfect example of the work we’re doing with other stakeholders that will contribute to a healthy community.”

Revitalizing communities across the country by supporting areas of need

According to the National Center for Healthy Housing, thirty-five million U.S. homes (40%) have a health or safety risk. This includes broken heating or plumbing fixtures, holes in walls or windows, foundation or roofing issues. Funding these home repairs is a challenge for low-income homeowners and residents, and a greater burden on communities of color.  A report from the Urban Institute says nearly 43% of people living below the poverty line needed home repairs, with the average repair cost at more than $1500, or nearly 6% of the annual income for a family of four living at the federal poverty level.

Working with partners in Kansas City like Habitat for Humanity and the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, H&R Block partners have already identified more than 50 homes (with more to come) that will receive desperately needed repairs for free with support from Block.

The wall raising of a house in the Lykins neighborhood of Kansas City
The first wall being raised on Elizabeth Francis’ new home.

Beyond Kansas City, H&R Block’s initial partnership with Habitat spans 16 communities across the country from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles. Across the state, in St. Louis, the local Habitat chapter identified a need to replace planters, crumbling trash bins and metal poles on Folsom Avenue to help uplift the historic Tiffany neighborhood and bring positive change to the community. In D.C., a historically disinvested neighborhood received funds to complete construction on 14 houses. And, in Wichita, funds enabled the community to purchase tools for empty lot maintenance, and to repair owner occupied homes.

By 2025, H&R Block has a goal to positively impact 500 communities in all 50 state through its community impact platform, Make Every Block Better. This goal is supported by partnerships like Habitat for Humanity with programs focused on building connections among neighbors, supporting small businesses and providing the resources and support communities need to thrive.

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