How Habitat for Humanity Continues Their New Home Building Project During the Pandemic

Updated: 2/2/2022

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Not all new build home builders are in it for a profit. Habitat for Humanity has been building homes for deserving families since 1976 but was in the works for about a decade before that.

As reported by News 5 Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity has built over 300,000 homes globally serving over one million people. This wonderful organization helps people that normally would find homeownership out of reach become homeowners. Like many businesses, Habitat for Humanity has had to find new ways to work under the current COVID 19 pandemic. Taking some tips from how they have adapted can help you to get the work done on your own home.

The Summit County division of the Habitat for Humanity has like almost every other organization been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the group has recently gone back to work to construct eight homes in one area of Akron, Ohio.

Operating in the same manner as Habitat for Humanity Cleveland Ohio, the Summit County division is dedicated to building homes for low and moderate-income families. Since its inception in 1986, the Summit County group has constructed more than 200 homes in its service area. Its work was put on pause earlier this year due to the pandemic. After about two months on furlough, its staff of mostly volunteers returned to work, but they still have to wear masks when at the construction site.

The organization has also experienced difficulty finding needed building materials and even a sufficient number of helping hands to do the work. In these difficult times, the Habitat for Humanity recognizes that it must serve those who themselves may be out of work and out of money.

A Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity restore will accept donated items that it then sells at reduced prices for use in its construction projects.

COVID 19 Restrictions and the Building Industry

The pandemic shut down most states except for essential services. In most states, construction services were designated as essential services. That meant that building and home improvement could move forward, but it had to take on a different process.

New home builders actually reported an increase in business during the pandemic, of course, they had to adopt a different way of doing things as well. A new scheduling approach needed to be taken for new home builders, dealing with potential supply shortages, and ensuring that contractors followed the rules for social distancing all became a normal part of doing business.

Of course, as a homeowner this “new way” of doing business in the construction industry affected everything from hiring flooring contractors to having a new roof installed. Some homeowners found that there was such a boom in the home improvement economy that finding contractors to get the job done was a challenge.

Initially the “new way” of doing business for new home builders, homeowners, and yes, even non-profits like Habitat for Humanity meant long wait times for projects to even get started. Luckily, everyone from roof contractors to your local electrical contractor has seemed to have found their groove.

Essential services provided by the construction industry like roofing services took a hard hit at the beginning of the pandemic, because like for everyone else, there was so much uncertainty surrounding safety. It took a couple of months for everyone to get on board with a safety plan that would keep the roofing services industry chugging along, but for the most part, these essential services have mastered how to keep their employees safe, while managing building needs.

Since the reboot and adoption of new practices everyone from your local waste management company to the large corporate new build home builders have put boots to the ground and have been able to stay busy while keeping workers safe. If you are a homeowner and are considering doing some renovation or remodeling, don’t let the fear of COVID 19 keep you from getting things done. Construction professionals have the processes in place to keep you and your family safe while the work is getting done.

The Changes

Many new build home builders follow the same process that Habitat for Humanity took when the pandemic first hit. Many of the new build home builders like Habitat for Humanity, and other groups, took a month off to regroup and come up with a plan.

The situation was clear there had to be changes put in place to help protect workers from the pandemic. Here are some of the changes that Habitat for Humanity as a leading new build home builder put in place and many construction companies have followed suit:

  • Staggering the build. At one time not too long ago it was not unusual to see many workers on a work site. Today, everything is scheduled to ensure that workers are staggered on to the job site. For example, bathtub installation on Wednesday after the electrician has left.
  • Health checks. Many employers in the construction industry are requiring regular health checks for employees and mandatory quarantine for anyone that tests positive or lives with someone that has tested positive.
  • Workers are required to wear PPE. Personal protective equipment like face masks, gloves and even shoe covers are often required.

Recently a residential roofing company shut down for two weeks while they had every team member tested after a relative of a worker tested positive. It turns out it was for nothing no one on the team was positive but it shows the abundance of caution these companies are taking.

Adjusting to the new way to provide services has without a doubt been a challenge but it has reduced the spread of COVID 19 and kept these essential businesses up and running. Habitat for Humanity of course is met with some unique challenges because their “army” of workers are volunteers. It is one thing to face the threat of being fired for not complying with social distancing and wearing PPE, it is another when people are already donating their time. It is not easy being one of the most prolific new build home builders when your workforce is strictly a volunteer workforce, however, they have done the hard work to ensure that volunteers are safe on the job site by making the use of PPE a mandatory requirement.

Supply Issues

As most people know new build home builders not only had to deal with changing their practices to keep everyone safer on the job, they also were faced with supply shortages. Everyone from gutter contractors to painting companies felt a bit of a pinch when it came to finding supplies.

Contrary to popular belief there was not one single cause for the shortages, instead, it was a perfect storm that caused many of the shortages. Here are some of the reasons people were having a hard time getting the supplies that they needed:

  • Break downs in the supply chains. It was not necessarily that the factories were unable to stay up and running, many times it was a breakdown elsewhere in the supply chain.
  • Demand skyrocketed. With many states shuttering all the entertainment venues and many people working from home, there was not a lot to do, except partake in some home improvement. It is safe to say that millions of people did some sort of home improvement during the lockdown days. That meant a mad rush for home building supplies like never before.
  • Raw materials were difficult to get from overseas locations. A lot of building materials start out as raw materials from other countries. Some countries stopped any work at all in hopes of keeping the pandemic from spreading.

New build home builders like Habitat for Humanity and just about every homeowner felt the pinch of the supply hiccup. Habitat for Humanity was able to tap into their building supply reserves to keep chugging along while the market corrected itself. Many innovative new build home builders found the supplies they needed from non-traditional sources to band-aid the problem.

As of today, the supply problem has seemed to correct itself, largely because manufacturers have adapted to the new way of doing business as have raw material companies. New build home builders are once again able to get the supplies they need effortlessly. The initial shock of the COVID 19 pandemic has also worn off, people are moving forward, and things are returning to normal.

Here Are the Tips

Now that you understand the changes and the challenges, you should be ready to get that home improvement job done with confidence. There is a right way to do things during a pandemic and a wrong way. Following a few tips will help to ensure that you do things the right way.

During the pandemic the motto “less is more” is a good motto to adopt. Not less work, but fewer workers at one time in the dwelling. Keeping your family safe means staggering the number of workers that you will have in and around your home so that while work gets done you do not have a lot of strangers coming into the house.

Of course, it is not only good for your household to stagger workers but it is good for the workers as well. For example, if you need roof work done, have the roofers come and complete the task, then call in the gutter contractors to do their part. It may be expeditious to have everyone there at once, but it is risky. It may take a couple of extra days to get the project complete by staggering the work but it is in everyone’s best interest.

Here are some other tips to follow from new build home builders that have applied:

  • Make everyone that enters your home wear a mask. It is amazing how lax people can become in their own homes when it comes to mask-wearing. Require a mask for anyone that does not live with you. Better you should be safe than sorry.
  • Don’t shake hands. Sounds a little rude not to shake someone’s hand? A positive diagnosis for COVID 19 sounds a lot worse.
  • Plan ahead. Give your contractors enough time to get the materials that they need.

Home improvement during a pandemic can be a little tricky but being comfortable at home has become more important than ever. Home is the place where many of us learn, earn, and try to relax. Adopting new practices in your home like mandating mask-wearing by anyone that does not live there can help keep your home safe.

Slow and Steady

Another thing that Habitat for Humanity has initiated is the slow and steady approach. As one of the most recognizable names in new build home builders, even Habitat for Humanity has felt the financial pinch of the pandemic. Many of the chapters of Habitat for Humanity has had to cut back on their building plans for 2020 and into 2021.

Most chapters report financial contributions have tumbled down greatly and the loss of volunteers that they can normally count on. Many corporate entities contribute manpower to the Habitat builds and have withdrawn their patronage this year because of COVID fears. In some cases, the volunteers that are normally available as a local residential electrician has been swamped with their own work and unable to dedicate any time to the cause.

Luckily this has not stopped Habitat for Humanity from building, although it has scaled back some of the activities. For example, in a recent news article for the Indiana area chapter it was revealed that the local chapter planned on building 10 houses in 2020 instead of the 16 that they built the year before. They have also scaled back their home repair activities directing efforts to only the most needed repairs.

You can follow the lead by making a list of home repairs that are divided into two categories. Make a list of the repairs that are needed first, then address the repairs or remodeling that you would like to get done.

You can methodically go through the list starting with the needs first, and work your way down the list. If slow and steady will win this race, then there is no better way to start the race than with the things your home needs.

Maybe getting that travertine tile from Italy for the bathroom remodel is not possible right now, but there are still plenty of things you can get done, and you can get them done safely. Here are some tips for making your list:

  • Start at the top and work your way down. Roofing needs to be a priority followed by plumbing and electrical. You want to make sure above all else that necessary maintenance is done and that your home is protected.
  • It’s a balancing act between need and want. Very many people are now remote workers which means you may want to carve out an office space, which at this moment seems very reasonable, but how long will you be working remotely? Is it in the budget to create an entirely separate room? It may seem like you need it but do you really?
  • Don’t forget your HVAC. When you are making your list, consider putting on the list, “contact HVAC for service”. With some supplies and parts still on backorder, the last thing you need is to have HVAC problems. Keeping your air conditioning and furnace in proper working order can ensure your home is comfortable at all times of the year.

Another idea from Habitat for Humanity that you can use is to repurpose what you already have. We mentioned creating your own office space, if you have old windows, pallets, or other items that can be fashioned into a room divider that might do for now. Get creative and look around for what can be repurposed in your project.

It is safe to say that no one will mourn the loss of 2020. Everyone will be very happy to see it go. Hopefully, next year will get everything back on track, but in the meantime, you can manage work around the house safely by following what one of the best known new home builders does to keep their volunteers safe.

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