No Place Like Home


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With help from the community, the organization builds affordable houses for families who fall below 30-60 percent of the area median income.

Originally from Chicago Jim Murphy moved to Hawai‘i about 5 five years ago. With a background in working in nonprofit organizations, community development and construction, it seemed only natural that he would be drawn to Honolulu Habitat for Humanity. The agency’s mission—“seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity brings people together to build homes, communities and hope,” accord- ing to its website—is one Murphy says he has long believed in.

So when the opportunity to take over as executive director presented itself, Murphy applied for the gig. This August, he’ll make four years.

There are six Habitat for Humanity groups in the state, he explains. Honolulu Habitat for Humanity covers the entire island of O‘ahu “this side of Kunia Road,” as Murphy puts it.

The way it works is rather simple: With help from the community, the or- ganization builds affordable houses for families who fall below 30-60 percent of the area median income.

To qualify, interested participants must first apply with the organization. Sometimes Honolulu Habitat for Hu- manity works with the state to acquire parcels of land. Other times, applicants might have inherited their own space or are leasing property the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands. Whatever the case may be, those accepted by Hono- lulu Habitat for Humanity are helped on a first-come, first-served basis, and are guaranteed a mortgage rate well below the market norm, with low to zero interest rates depending on what agency is servicing the mortgage.

Then, with help from volunteers (individuals, other organizations and businesses among them), Honolulu Habitat for Humanity builds a family their home. In fact, those who pitch in do everything but plumbing and electrical work—and it’s watching the community unite that Murphy particu- larly appreciates.

“It’s important for us to get as much of the community involved in the build as possible because ultimately, we’re creating a new community member,” he says.

“There’s a saying here that we’re not giving families a handout, we’re giving them a hand up,” Murphy adds. “I think the thing that I enjoy most about this is working with the families, working with the volunteers, and the fact that every- one is coming together to make this mission work. It’s not about the house, it’s about the community that builds that house.”

He and the organization have some pretty ambitious goals for the coming years, too: Honolulu Habitat for Humanity plans on increasing its production rate to build 40 hours in the next five years.

“We want that to be the norm,” says Murphy. “We’re addressing, potentially, the biggest issue that Hawai‘i has in affordable housing and we feel that … we can play a very big role in that.

“I’d love to look back at that 10 years from now and say, ‘Oh, wow, we completely exceeded that’ because I know we can do that.”

In the meantime, the organization remains focused on its other initiatives as well, including the Home Preservation program. Ideal for kupuna especially, the Home Preservation program helps people who have homes already but need repairs or additions to create a nicer and safer environment. Some, for example, may need ramps and widened doorways for easy access for wheel- chairs and grab bars in the bathroom, or a new roof and windows. All participants are required to pay for is the cost of the repairs, which Murphy points out is typically 40 percent below the market rate.

Of course, the organization always is looking for more assistance from the community. Volunteers and monetary donations always are welcome. The organization also welcomes the public to Honolulu ReStore (922 Austin Lane, C-1), where people can donate and shop for new and gently used furniture, building materials, appliances and home accessories. Proceeds go back to Honolulu Habitat for Humanity to help its cause.

“There’s no one way to get involved with us,” says Murphy. “There’s lots of opportunities depending on what people’s interests might be.”

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