Cost of Land Threatens Habitat for Humanity Mission

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Habitat for Humanity has been providing affordable housing to the working poor for more than 30 years. But now the high cost of land is threatening their mission.

"When you're an affordable housing producer, then you're going to find more of a challenge," said Trish Burk, the executive director of the Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity.

According to Habitat for Humanity, this is particularly the case in College Station, with students and developers building near Texas A&M University.

"If there are any pieces of land that are affordable, or if there are homes that are affordable, we have a hard time competing with for-profit developers or people who are investors," said Burk. "Because they're able to purchase them and then sub-divide the rent among the four students."

And with less land being donated to Habitat, finding affordable land has become crucial.

"Everybody of course wants to be able to sell their land for what they can," said Burk. "As these things get more and more complicated, the pressure is more and more on the families to be able to come up with these funds."

And while building is currently underway in the Angel's Gate sub-division in Bryan, officials with Habitat say they are currently looking for more property.

But with rising costs, it's an ongoing battle.

"We're finding ourselves really against a brick wall because the families are required to buy the homes at cost, but that cost is rising all the time, said Burk."

Currently, Habitat said there is a list of families waiting for affordable property to open up in College Station.

But the high cost may also force Habitat to change the blueprints for its developments.

"If we can't find the land, then the only thing we're really going to be able to allow in subdivisions is smaller lots," said Burk.

Habitat's property committee is currently considering building townhomes on some of the property they have remaining in the Angels Gate sub-division in order to fully utilize their land.

Although Habitat hopes it won't be the case, with increasing prices, townhomes may become more common.

And while many find it hard to fathom that finding affordable land is difficult in a state the size of Texas, Burk said Habitat tries to place homes in more urban areas.

"A lot of land is in rural areas, and there's no infrastructure in rural areas, so we can't build there," said Burk. "We've got to be able to provide a road and utilities. That's something we can't afford to do in the rural areas."