Guest post from “Builders of Hope” contributor Nancy Welsh: “Get Americans back into housing and save the economy–it works!”

Nancy Welsh, founder and CEO of Builders of Hope (the fantastic nonprofit that rebuilds homes and lives by providing safe, affordable housing to working families), joins us today to talk about a topic that’s near and dear to her heart. To read more from Nancy, check out the Builders of Hope website or the foreword to Builders of Hope: A Social Entrepreneur’s Solution for Rebuilding America, by Wanda Urbanska. Proceeds from book sales will go toward funding the organization’s HopeWorks work-mentor program.

So without further ado, I’ll turn things over to Nancy!

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I read an article in TIME Magazine a couple of months ago, and I was shocked by its title — “How to Save the Housing Market: Destroy Houses.” (View the video here.) America is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis. We have millions of people in need of affordable housing, and we have millions of vacant units of housing. So why are policymakers suggesting that we tear down 3 million homes?

While it’s true that there’s an over-supply of vacant housing in today’s market, destroying this supply is not the way to jumpstart our economy. Despite this overstock of homes, there’s an anemic supply of affordable housing units. High vacancy rates do not equal increased housing options. These units often either overpriced or abandoned, unfit housing that’s in an unacceptable state of disrepair.

More than 46 million Americans live in poverty, our homeless population continues to grow, and young adults are waiting to move out of their parents homes. At the same time, 19.4 million American households spend more than half of their yearly incomes on housing. This means that these households have to make sacrifices when it comes to necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care to cover their housing costs.

I simply cannot wrap my head around the idea of tearing down in order to rebuild. Instead of destroying this huge surplus of vacant housing, we should use it to get Americans back into housing. Instead of demolishing homes in blighted neighborhoods, we should rehabilitate would-be tear-down houses with health- and eco-conscious materials.  The wrecking ball is not the solution. We could provide safe, affordable housing to working families.

Just imagine all of the jobs we could create and the people we could shelter with 3 million homes. Based on an average U.S. household size of 2.58 people, 3 million homes could house 7.74 MM people.  To put that in perspective, 3 million homes could house the entire population of Los Angeles twice.

Builders of Hope rescues, moves and rehabilitates houses slated for demolition, creating new neighborhoods in blighted urban areas. The Extreme Green Rehabilitation process saves demolition debris from reaching the landfill, prevents the creation of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, builds safe communities and offers green home ownership to those making at or below 80% of the average median income.

By recycling homes and revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, we can help families afford to live where they work, build economic independence and create generational wealth.

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Nancy Welsh is the dynamic entrepreneur who, in 2006, founded Builders of Hope. The organization has received such national recognition as Edison Awards’ Silver Medal for Innovation, the Pioneering Housing Strategies Award from the National Housing Conference, and an Innovation in Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. A graduate of the University of Tennessee and a mother of four, Welsh makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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