The National Association of Realtors reports that median home price for Manatee County, Florida sits at $410,9831. The median household income for the same county is $64,9642, resulting in a serious affordable housing situation.
Bernie Quinn, CEO of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity knows this all too well. “It’s not uncommon for a house in our county to exceed $500,000 or even rent to cost upward of $1,500 or $2,500 a month,” said Quinn. “So imagine someone making 50 to 80 percent of the area’s median income, that first home is out of reach."
Quinn and his team at Manatee Habitat work tirelessly to bring people together to build homes and communities while delivering on their vision of everyone having a decent place to live. Their work and impact were recently recognized through the Hancock Whitney Opportunity Grant program where their organization received the top award for 2022.
Hancock Whitney proudly presents a Hancock Whitney Opportunity Grant to Manatee County Habitat for Humanity in support of their mission to provide affordable homes to local families. Left to right: Ed Wyatt, Hancock Whitney Commercial Banker, Emily Lane, Manatee County Habitat for Humanity Development Director, Bennie Quinn, President and CEO of Manatee County Habitat for Humanity, and Mike Moschella, Hancock Whitney Market President.
A Path to Homeownership
Manatee Habitat, like other Habitat for Humanity chapters across the nation, works to provide affordable homeownership to families who otherwise may be unable to buy a home. There is a common misconception though, that Habitat for Humanity gives away free homes, but their model opts for empowerment instead. Habitat chapters build homes at as low of a cost as they can, then they sell the homes to residents for the appraised value. Beyond that, Manatee Habitat provides the tools and resources to prepare residents for homeownership, requiring them to complete 14 hours of homebuyer readiness coursework focusing on budgeting, credit, understanding taxes, homeownership insurance and more. Additionally, homebuyers are required to put in 300 hours of sweat equity as well, contributing to the construction and completion of their new home.
Once a homeowner receives the keys, the relationship with Manatee Habitat is not done. “We stay with these families for the life of their homeownership,” said Quinn. “We’re their mortgage holder and we service their mortgage, but also are the first phone call they make if there are difficulties. We work with them and do what we can to help them be successful and maintain their homes.”
A Community of Support
Manatee Habitat relies on strong partnerships and support to execute their mission. Faced with the challenge of keeping homes affordable amid record inflation, fundraising, volunteers and corporate supporters are even more valuable to the nonprofit.
“We would not be able to do what we do without the kind of generosity and support from organizations like Hancock Whitney and others in our community,” said Quinn. “One of the things that we're faced with is that we have to keep the homes affordable in the construction and affordable in the purchase, so fundraising and grant dollars help us with our costs and directly translates to a homeowner being able to purchase a home.”
“Funding a network of quality housing partners is vital to helping reduce barriers and promoting equity in homeownership,” said Hancock Whitney Vice-President CRA Officer Ashley Harrison. “We are honored to award Manatee County Habitat for Humanity the top grant award for our 2022 Opportunity Grant cycle for the work they are doing to help Manatee County residents achieve the dream of homeownership.”
Beyond funding support, Manatee Habitat leverages volunteer labor to help keep costs down. Nearly 200 volunteers participate each year in one of approximately 10 new build constructions or one of 15 to 20 critical home repairs.
Quinn believes the ongoing support in dollars and volunteers truly elevates the impact. "The culmination of our builds is the dedication, and it is one of the most rewarding thing for supporters to be a part of," said Quinn. "The new homeowner gathers with family, friends, volunteers and donors to give thanks and receives the keys to their new home. It can be very emotional and moving, and our supporters love being a part of it."