DURHAM, N.C. – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) announced it has invested over $850,000 in Habitat for Humanity projects in Durham, Wake and Orange counties to improve housing affordability, safety and quality for vulnerable families and seniors in the Triangle area. The investment is part of the company’s ongoing commitment to address the root drivers of health issues and improve living conditions for North Carolinians. Programs include multiple projects in Durham County, the Almost Home program in Wake County and a first-of-its-kind senior community in Orange County.
Housing instability continues to be a major issue in Triangle counties, where one in four households use more than 30 percent of their income to pay for their rent or lease. Unaffordable and unstable housing is estimated to cost the United States $111 billion each year in avoidable health-related costs. Poor housing options may contribute to health issues due to lack of access to a reliable source of medical care, overcrowding and safety risks, such as mold, water leaks and inadequate heating or cooling systems.[
“We know a home is much more than a roof over your head,” said Patrick Conway, President and CEO of Blue Cross NC. “A stable home provides a solid foundation for good health. Making sure North Carolinians have access to safe and affordable housing is one of the best ways we can address health issues that affect many in our state.”
To support the affordable housing needs of Durham County, Habitat for Humanity of Durham will use funding to expand and support multiple innovative project areas, including the Homeowner Assistance Program, the Repairs Program and the Homeowner Incubation Program and Accessory Dwelling Units Pilot (HIP ADU).
● The Homeowner Assistance Program provides homeowners a subsidy to keep their mortgage affordable. In the next few years, funds will directly help 14 families achieve their dream of homeownership.
● Durham Habitat’s Repairs Program provides critical home repairs to elderly and disabled homeowners, helping vulnerable populations age in the comfort of their homes, and with the peace of mind that their house is stable and safe. Funds will help over 80 homes and will assist in the hiring of a project manager and project coordinator for the Durham program.
● The HIP ADU program is a pilot and has been a successful pathway from rental to home ownership for participants who are not yet homebuyer-ready. The program provides short and long term affordable rentals and additional sources of income for the Habitat homeowner through the accessory dwelling unit built on their property.
"Healthy people need healthy homes, and a healthy community needs safe and affordable housing; Durham isn't healthy right now,” said Blake Strayhorn, Executive Director of Durham Habitat. “We know the best solutions to our affordable housing crisis will come from cross-sector partnerships building innovative solutions. Blue Cross NC has always been supportive of Durham Habitat pilot programs, and this outstanding investment really takes it to the next level. Blue Cross NC’s support will allow Durham Habitat to test and expand programs which we believe will open new paths to healthy and secure housing for our low-income Durham neighbors. Durham Habitat is so grateful for our outstanding partnership with Blue Cross NC."
Habitat Wake seeks to serve more people in the community by launching Almost Home. The program helps Habitat for Humanity applicants improve their status for homeownership eligibility. Funding will help over 100 families build strength and self-reliance through the following support partnerships:
● Educational coaching on financial literacy, including developing a budget designed for the specific family;
● Help toward reducing debt and establishing good credit – Habitat Wake found that 98 percent of the applications that were submitted had credit issues;
● Assistance in seeking better jobs or improving performance and pay;
● Help toward setting goals for personal success.
Future homeowners also begin “sweat equity” volunteer hours as they progress and participate in Almost Home.
“We are so privileged to work with special donors like Blue Cross NC who know the importance of investing in real change in our community,” said Mitch Rhodes, Interim CEO of Habitat Wake. “An affordable place to live can remove barriers to opportunity, success and better health that affect families for generations to come. Thank you to Blue Cross NC for their forward-looking leadership in this area.”
Habitat for Humanity of Orange County’s Crescent Magnolia community is set to be the first of its kind in the nation, focused exclusively on affordable homeownership for seniors over the age of 55. In Orange County, people over the age of 65 are the most cost-burdened age group.
The Crescent Magnolia community combines bold vision, innovative design and a commitment to a sustainable and permanent affordable solution that addresses the housing need for seniors in Orange County. The neighborhood features 24 attached units across four buildings, which will allow residents to age in place and live independently within close proximity to UNC Health Care, public transportation options and green communal spaces.
“Seniors are the most cost-burdened population in Orange County with little to no vacancies available for affordable homes that meet their needs. We are incredibly grateful to Blue Cross NC for its investment in this innovative community designed specifically for seniors to age in place in a quality, affordable home,” said Jennifer Player, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of Orange County.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) improves the health and well-being of our customers and communities by providing innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.9 million members, including approximately 1.1 million served on behalf of other Blue Plans. Since 1933, we have worked to make North Carolina a better place to live through our support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Visit Blue Cross NC online at bluecrossnc.com. All other marks are the property of their respective owners.
 Children’s HealthWatch: Unstable Housing Will Cost U.S. $111 Billion in Avoidable Healthcare Costs, National Low Income Housing Coalition, July 2018