Archive for the ‘Healthy, Affordable Housing’ Category

Working to Ensure There is Never Another Homeless Veteran

Friday, November 22nd, 2013

Many Americans do not recognize that nearly 60,000 veterans are homeless. After bravely serving our country, many of them return without a place to live. We think this is unacceptable, but it will take a lot of us to reverse this trend. That is why, together with National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), we are asking all Americans to sign a statement to recognize there are homeless veterans, to tell others about the problem and to commit to becoming a part of the solution.

This commitment is part of NAEH’s Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign, a two-year effort to raise awareness and build support for ending veteran homelessness. With our five-year, $80 million commitment to ensuring every veteran has a safe place to call home, we believe strongly in this initiative.

The Home Depot associates are no stranger to this cause either. We have 35,000 veterans among our 300,000+ associates, and they are working with us to address veterans’ housing needs. They volunteer their time and talents year round to complete volunteer projects benefitting veterans across the country.

Beyond that, we are proud to say that more 4,500 of our associates have already signed the Never Another Homeless Veteran commitment statement. So as we continue to do our part to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home with NAEH and our many other nonprofit partners, we ask that you do your part too.

You may volunteer at a VA hospital or an American Legion post. You may give to a nonprofit that serves veterans. But you can get involved right now. We ask you to add your name to show you understand this problem and care about our veterans.

Sign the Never Another Homeless Veteran statement here.

NAHV

The Home Depot Reaches Product Donation Milestone: $150 Million Donated To Local Nonprofits Nationwide

Friday, January 18th, 2013

What do Atlanta Union Mission, Help the Children, and Rebuilding Together have in common? They, along with thousands of other nonprofits, receive regular donations of products from The Home Depot. Since 2008, The Home Depot and The Home Depot Foundation have worked with Good 360 to distribute millions of dollars in product to nonprofit organizations that use the materials to help those in need. As the program, Framing Hope, prepares to enter its sixth year this February, we are happy to announce a new and exciting milestone – we have surpassed $150 million in product donation!

Framing Hope was launched in 2008 after a call from our associates who wanted to make good use of merchandise from our stores that would otherwise be discarded. Now, the national program matches more than 1,200 stores with local nonprofits that receive much needed home improvement supplies to support their charitable efforts. In a true life example of “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” the receiving nonprofits have made use of the donated materials that would otherwise be thrown away to address housing needs of low-to-moderate income homeowners, veterans, seniors and others in need.

Since it began, Framing Hope has become not only a vital part of our organization, but a significant part of our giving strategy. In 2012 alone, The Home Depot donated $37.7 million worth of products to nonprofit organizations, $10 million of which directly supported U.S. military veterans.

“[Framing Hope] started as a grassroots effort on the part of our associates to divert good, useable building materials from the landfill to local nonprofits helping individuals, low income families and the needy have a decent, safe affordable place to call home,” says Fred Wacker, Director and Chief Operating Officer of The Home Depot Foundation. “It is a great accomplishment of our associates that we have reached the $150 million milestone and impacted over one million homes and families.”

The $37.7 million in product donated during 2012 alone benefited more than 60,000 homes and local facilities that help these deserving families and individuals in their areas. Just a few examples of what Framing Hope accomplishes include:

  • Atlanta Union Mission renovated the dormitories at The Potter’s House, a working farm outside Athens that can house about 180 men in long-term, intensive care for chemical addiction.
  • Help the Children distributes products to nonprofits including bathroom fixtures, carpets, tile and wood flooring, window blinds and more.
  • Rebuilding Together affiliates in Lynchburg, VA and Tempe, AZ have refurbished homes for disabled veterans and seniors.

Recently at the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show, we were thrilled to join Good360 Board Chair Carly Fiorina in a panel discussion, “Doing Well by Doing Good,” about the strategic business case for product donation. There, Fred Wacker highlighted our program and discussed how the partnership successfully allows us to repurpose Home Depot product for positive social impact. (For more information on the National Retail Federation’s BIG Show, click here)

“Framing Hope aligns many of The Home Depot’s core values, such as Giving Back, Doing the Right Thing and Building Strong Relationships,” adds Wacker. “In addition, it positively addresses the social, economic and environmental needs of our communities.”

According to a recent report on the program from Indiana University, the “social, economic and environmental” impact he references have been substantial. Results include:

  • Social Impact:  Nearly 600,000 low income families reached
  • Economic Impact:  More than $56 million in embodied energy costs saved.
  • Environmental Impact: The Framing Hope program has helped families across the nation increase the sustainability of their homes by distributing ENERGY STAR products that help them save money on their energy bills. The program has also saved landfill space equivalent to approximately 6,000 garbage trucks.

On the heels of a very successful 2012, Framing Hope shows no signs of slowing down in 2013!

 

HOMES FOR THE HOLIDAYS: HELPING THOSE WHO NEED IT MOST

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010

This week, I am looking forward to the holidays and having some time to spend with family and friends. But, as I hear reports of 50% of the country being covered in snow and the flooding on the west coast, I can’t help but think about those who may not have a warm and safe place to celebrate this year.

I think especially about those who are most vulnerable: our senior citizens and our veterans, many of whom are disabled or have physical limitations of some kind.   For seniors and veterans, many of whom are on fixed incomes, basic home repairs, even when absolutely necessary, are often beyond their reach.  While we cuddle up in our warm beds and sit by the fire with our families, many of them are just trying to make ends meet.

Our store associates see these types of needs in their communities every day and partner with nonprofits to volunteer their time and skills to help.  For instance, in Savannah, GA, hundreds of Team Depot volunteers renovated the home of a low-income senior couple; in Seattle, WA, 50 Team Depot volunteers weatherized a home for a disabled veteran; and in Kalamazoo, MI, dozens of Team Depot volunteers built a wheelchair ramp for a disabled senior.

As we reach the end of another successful year for the Foundation, I am struck by these projects and the other great things we have accomplished, but I often think about what more we can do. How we can make a greater impact on our communities? How can we really truly help our most vulnerable citizens? For the New Year, I hope to be able to do more.  Will you resolve to join me in this effort?

Affordable Housing Built Responsibly? Can it be done?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Affordable housing for working families needs to be…well…affordable. But does affordable mean cheap? The answer to that is a firm no. As a matter of fact, the cheaper the materials used to build and maintain a home or rental unit, the more expensive it will be to operate and maintain over the long term. One small example to demonstrate this point: If you use low quality insulation, roofing materials and windows in a home and therefore it leaks like a sieve from every point, the monthly utility bills are going to be very high. High utility bills can often mean the difference between a family being able to make ends meet each month or not. And that doesn’t even count the expenses from health problems that come from homes that use cheap materials.

We know that affordable housing can and is being built responsibly across the country. Every year through our Awards of Excellence program, we seek out those nonprofit developers who are doing it the best. Today we have announced our 2010 winners, and it’s a great group. We’re so glad to be able to hold them up as examples of the best work being done out there, and as models for others to follow. And we’re also glad to be giving them a grant to continue their good work! Read the press release for all the details.

The first place winner in the Homeownership category is Lopez Community Land Trust, Lopez Island, WA. Read more about how the whole-house systems approach this organization took has resulted in 60 percent reduced energy and maintenance costs, 30 percent reduced water costs, improved durability and safer indoor air quality for its residents.

The first place winner in the rental category is First Community Housing, San Jose, CA. Read more about how First Community Housing incorporated energy-efficient design, solar panels, a green roof, and low-emissions materials in the building design, adding only 1 percent to the total development costs, but providing 25 percent energy savings and 36 percent water savings for the residents.

Congratulations not only to the winners, but to every organization who applied. There is great work being done all across the country, and we salute you all!

We are also excited to highlight the last five years of nonprofit innovation and excellence. Check out the case studies of projects that have been recognized over the last five years through our annual Awards of Excellence for Affordable Housing Built Responsibly.

The Home Depot Foundation Selects Two Cities to Participate in $1 Million Sustainability Initiative

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

Sustainability initiatives… sustainability plans…are your eyes glazing over yet?  If so, that’s not an unexpected reaction.  The term ‘sustainability plan’ often leads to skepticism or indifference because people don’t know what it means for them.  We’re hoping to change that through our Sustainable Cities Institute (SCI) City Program.

 

We’ve selected two cities – Charleston, SC and Fayetteville, AR – to participate in a three-year, $1 million initiative to demonstrate the challenges and successes of implementing lasting sustainability programs at the local level.  And these are not pie-in-the-sky programs…the initiatives that each city will be implementing are “sticks and bricks” projects and related policies that will produce tangible, long-lasting results.  Each project is designed to provide immediate cost savings for these cities and their residents and also to be easily replicable in other communities. 

 

We’re also making this a fully transparent effort.  During this three-year initiative, the results of both cities – both the successes and the challenges – will be shared on a weekly basis at www.sustainablecitiesinstitute.org/city_program. 

 

While the SCI City Program is focused on two cities right now, the SCI website is a treasure trove of information and resources for other cities who are trying to implement cost saving programs that will make their cities healthier and more livable.  We know that cities are budget-strapped and continue to see their resources shrinking, so we are providing a forum where city staff can access vetted best practices, downloadable guides, communication tools and interactive forums to get everything they need to quickly move forward with sustainability planning and implementation in a budget-friendly way. 

 

We can’t wait to see the great things that Charleston and Fayetteville are going to do through this program…and we hope that all cities will visit the SCI website to join in the discussion about building healthy communities for the long term.  For more details about today’s announcement, read the press release.  And to learn more about the Sustainable Cities Institute and access the free resources, visit the SCI website.

 

 

Healthy Homes, Healthy Lives: Making the American Dream Smarter

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

For those of you who regularly follow my Tweets and this blog, you know that The Home Depot Foundation is focused on bringing the benefits of healthy, affordable housing to working families.  And you know that we’ve actually increased our funding initiatives over the last couple of years while many foundations have had to cut back.  Why?  Because housing has been at the crux of much of the country’s economic woes, and so we feel there is no better time to be focused on how to build and maintain healthy, affordable homes for families. The studies are clear:  healthy homes generate higher resale values, and the communities they form see lower crime rates and greater neighborhood involvement.  In addition, studies show that children growing up in healthy homes are less likely to suffer from respiratory problems, and are more likely to succeed in school.

That’s why I’m so excited today to announce the new affiliates that are part of our Partners in Sustainable Building Program (PSB) with Habitat for Humanity International.  PSB is a five-year $30 million green building initiative that will help build 5,000 green homes nationwide.  More than 135 Habitat affiliates across 42 states will be granted $3,000 for each home built to Energy Star standards and up to $5,000 for each home built to a higher green standard. The selected Habitat affiliates are expected to build 2,400 homes in 2010-2011.  You can read more about the specifics of our initiative in today’s press release.

I’m so proud of this initiative, because it’s having a real impact on families’ health and their ability to save money each month.  For instance, in St. Louis, Missouri a homeowner saved so much in utility bills that she was able to purchase everything her children needed for the new school year, an annual expense she could not previously afford.  And in Grayson County Texas after months of 100+ degree temperatures, a homeowner reported that her highest electric bill was only $100.  These kinds of savings are real and can often mean the difference between making the ends meet each month or not.

When we started down this housing path, many were skeptical that we could help non-profits build homes that were “green” and affordable.  I think that’s because when people hear the term “green building,” most think of really expensive homes covered with solar panels, bamboo floors, or metal exteriors that make them look like spaceships. In other words, homes that most people wouldn’t want to live in or can’t afford to build.

But our definition of a “green building” is different.  For us, a “green building” is simply one built with environmentally friendly materials such as nontoxic insulation, caulk and paint, and that uses water-saving faucets and energy-efficient appliances.  And since our primary goal is to provide homes for working families, we want these “green” homes to be affordable to own and maintain over the long term.

The basic math is pretty clear.  According to a survey by Habitat for Humanity, building to Energy Star standards adds less than $2,000 to the cost of a home.  And building to these standards will save homeowners an average of $6,000 on heating, air conditioning, and water in the first six years alone, according to the U.S. EPA’s Energy Star statistics.

And that’s just the math of the building costs.  That doesn’t count how smart maintenance of the home continues to save homeowners money each month.  From CFL and LED lighting to programmable thermostats, homeowners will continue to make money off operating their home in a healthy, energy-efficient way.

Every time I talk about how much money homeowners are saving through our green-building partnerships with Habitat and other housing organizations, I wonder why we all aren’t focused on green homes.  If homebuyers with the least to spend are realizing these kinds of benefits, why aren’t we all doing the same?  Why are we all leaving money on the table by not paying attention to how efficiently our homes are running?

To learn more about how you can reap these same benefits in your own home, check out this list of tips.  You’ll find that green building isn’t just about making your home healthier…it’s about putting green back into your pocket!

An Ounce of Prevention…

Monday, August 30th, 2010

It’s that time of year when we start watching the Weather Channel more frequently, and I start getting emergency weather updates on my Blackberry.  It’s hurricane season. We are thinking about this all the more as we observe the fifth anniversary of the horrible time called Hurricane Katrina.

Working with Home Depot for over a decade, I understand how a big storm impacts people, families and communities.  We are exceptionally proud of the things we do as a company and as a foundation in the wake of a storm when a community needs help.  This is also what gets the most media attention.  I hope, though, that we can start paying more attention to things that can happen before a hurricane, tornado, flood or fire damages a community or an entire region.  I know, it’s not nearly as exciting; the pictures aren’t nearly as good.  But what if we could actually avoid those “after” pictures.

I was exceptionally pleased last week to see that HUD has awarded $312 million to 13 states to reduce the damages from future disasters.  These funds will be used:

  • to buyout homeowners in high-risk areas and relocate them to safer places;
  • to complete improvements to homes to reduce damage by doing things like reinforcing windows and doors and raising the elevation;
  • to improve and enforce building codes; and
  • to develop thoughtful land use plans that reduce development in high-risk areas.

You may say that that’s a lot of money right now and ask it we can really afford it.  That’s a salient concern, but the answer is clearly that we can’t afford not to make these investments.  Every dollar spent on damage mitigation will result in a $4 reduction in the amount we would spend for disaster recovery.

You may also be asking why I’m writing – or even thinking – about this.  I know I typically focus on topics related to affordable housing and  “green” building.  But what could be more sustainable than to invest in building homes so they don’t get blown away by a strong wind or to build them in places where a flood won’t carry them away?  What could help a family with few housing choices more?  We know these storms are going to occur – whether every 10 years, every 30 years or every 100 years.  Isn’t it just common sense that we would think about how to reduce the damage caused by something that will inevitably happen?

I hope I’ve convinced you to think about what you can do before we start tracking the next satellite images of a storm (I know, there’s a storm tracking right now!).  While it’s on the top of your mind,  I’m  encourage you to do a couple of things.  First, think about donating to the American Red Cross before a specific emergency arises.  Every year we give to the Red Cross’s Annual Disaster Giving Program so they can do the things they need to do to be on the ground helping people immediately after a disaster.  They also have great resources to educate you and your family on how to be prepared.  Other fantastic resources are available at the site of our long-standing partner, the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes, where they have everything from DIY home inspections, to a contractors’ certification program, to videos with step by step instructions on how to improve your home with disaster safety in mind.  Remember “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Finding the Right Balance for Healthy Housing

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Last week, we had an Advisory Committee of experts in a variety of areas community development, affordable housing and green building come to Atlanta to assess the finalist for our 2010 Awards of Excellence for Affordable Housing, Built Responsibly.  (Sorry – I can’t tell you who the winners are yet, but check out the case studies of recipients from prior years if you want to get a taste of the outstanding and inspirational work being done by dedicated, talented, passionate professionals across the country.)  The conversations turned into mini-debates on some of the issues practitioners building healthy homes for families of modest means every day.  Most of the time, there’s not a “right” answer, but rather an attempt to find the best balance of competing needs and limited resources. I wanted to toss several of these issues out to get input from a larger group.  So, let me know what you think about these issues.

Affordability vs. Responsibility:  This one is really at the crux of everything we do at The Home Depot Foundation: how do you build the best home possible at a price that remains affordable.  (One question we won’t address here is “Affordable for whom?”  We’ll have to save that one for another day.) We actually started this Awards of Excellence program because we kept hearing people say that it wasn’t possible.  We knew that not only is it possible, but that people are doing it amazingly well.  Obviously, though, a home that incorporates every new technology that enhances its efficiency and health would be cost prohibitive.  So what’s the right balance?  When does a product become “green bling” rather than a practical upgrade.  Take for instance photovoltaics.  PVs are a great way to keep energy costs low for residents by tapping into the free energy of sunlight, but they are very expensive.  If there are no subsidies to pay for them, does it make sense to invest in a technology that won’t pay for itself for 20 years?  Maybe it does if you are planning for someone to live in the home for 50 years, but that’s a big upfront expense to absorb.  On the other hand, siting a building to take advantage of the sun’s heat  in a cold climate or to reduce the heat build up in a warm climate is one way to control the impact of the sun’s heat on a building through thoughtful design rather than expensive technology.

Now vs. Later:  There are trade-offs in every decision.  Among the hardest are those that pit current impacts of our choices against the long term implications.  Here’s an example that seems at first blush to be fairly simple, but gets very complicated very quickly.  You are selecting windows for your new apartment complex, but you are limited in what you can spend for each one (just like everything else).  You can choose wood or composite windows that are more efficient than what the local code requires.  For the same money, you can use vinyl windows that are even more energy efficient.  The wood windows are more environmentally friendly to make and at the end of their useful life as the wood will decompose.  The vinyl windows use less energy, which means more money in the residents’ pockets each month, but raise environmental issues related to how the vinyl is manufactured and the fact that it will be with us essentially forever.  This one, to me, has no “better” answer.  What would you do?

Developer vs. Resident:  Unfortunately, there is still some incremental cost to building a more efficient, healthier home.  Depending upon who you ask, that can be next to nothing up to 15-20% more than traditional building.  (Keep in mind, that it is very difficult to define what a “traditional” building is:  Is it one that merely meets code?  – And by the way, which code?  California’s stringent energy efficiency code or a state that has no statewide standard?) – One that includes Energy Star appliances?  Or one that is already built to a minimum green building standard?)  At any rate, it is a fact today that the developer is going to spend some extra amount to build a green home, but will not realize a huge financial incentive.  If it’s a home that will be purchased, the homeowner will receive the benefits in lower monthly utilities and less maintenance.  Even in the case of apartments, financial institutions don’t consider the cost savings that will come over time when they are calculating reserves and the amount that can be borrowed.  Affordable housing has been ahead of the game because grants and subsidies have been available to cover the incremental costs and because the developers are mission-driven nonprofits, but the financial and insurance industries must start to factor in both the costs and benefits if we are going to achieve real market transformation.

As I said to start, I don’t think these are easy issues, and this certainly isn’t an exhaustive list, just a few examples of the kinds of thoughts the Advisory Committee grappled with. Every building development is unique in terms of location, residents and finances and each one has to find it’s own “right” balance.   One thing I do know, however, is that we are fortunate as a country to have people who are working at getting to the best housing outcomes for families, neighborhoods and the environment.  Just wait ’til you see out winners!

Fill in the Blank: I am proud of _______

Friday, June 11th, 2010

Last week, I posted some thoughts on the things that I would change about what’s going on around us – the things about the world that make me embarrassed and that we could change.  This week, I want to look at the other side and talk about the situations I see that make me proud of us all.

First, I want to talk about a few things close to home – our home at The Home Depot Foundation.  In 2007, we pledged to invest $400 million to build and rehab 100,000 homes and plant three million trees over ten years.  Just three years in, we’ve contributed $163 million, touched 64,000 families by helping them live in safe, healthy homes and planted 732,000 trees.  That’s a lot of numbers, but it’s also a lot of people and neighborhoods changed for the better and many, many great partners with whom we have worked.

Speaking of which, I am exceptionally proud, as well as humbled, to have worked with each of the nonprofit partners who made those numbers a reality in communities across the country.  Seven days a week, passionate professionals spend their days pouring out their energy working to help others.  They aren’t just thinking about making a difference (or writing about it), they are actually changing the way people are living their lives: building healthy homes where a policeman can afford to raise his family; teaching a mom how to program her thermostat to save money on her utilities so she buy new sneakers for her son; planting a garden where a family and neighbors can plant vegetables, watch with anticipation as the tomatoes turn red and enjoy what they have grown together, creating a healthier meal and a stronger community.

I’m proud of the thousands, actually the millions, of volunteers who give their time to do things for others without asking for anything in return.  They paint homes, plant trees, mentor kids, cook meals and visit veterans’ hospitals.  They understand that by giving of themselves, they will be happier and more fulfilled, and all of us will benefit.  And they often do this when they have no idea who will ultimately be helped by what they are doing.

I’m astounded that even as we are bombarded with bad economic news, Americans donated over $300 billion to charities in 2009.

I am proud that an average person laughs 15 times a day.  I am proud that usually if you trust people, they won’t let you down.  I’m amazed that there are scientists who are creating medicines to fight horrible diseases.  I’m awed that anyone has walked on the moon.  I’m proud that we can each do so many things – big and small – to make life a little easier, a little happier or a little healthier for someone else.  And I’m even more proud of us because we actually do so many of those things every day.

Embarrassed to be Human?

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I was talking to someone whom I greatly respect about some of the pressing issues facing us all right now, and he said that some of our current affairs made him embarrassed to be a member of the human race.  I hadn’t heard that phrase before, and it struck me as humorous at first, but if you take it literally, he’s completely right.

Pause and create your mental list of the realities that exist today that make you cringe inside.  My list includes the facts that:

I could go on, but that’s enough.  And this is in no way meant to be depressing – I hope that this is a very loud wake up call.  This list is embarrassing, not disheartening or overwhelming.  According to Webster’s dictionary, embarrass means to cause self-conscious distress.  We should be distressed, and we should each be looking inward to think about what we are doing about it because these are circumstances that we should not accept.  We should not allow these situations to continue to exist – and make no mistake, through our action or delay, we are allowing these facts to be.  We have the ability to change them; we just haven’t chosen to do that so far.

I believe strongly that there is no reason that almost 15% of Americans aren’t sure that they’ll be able to pay their mortgage or rent this month, that they’ll be able to feed their kids dinner tonight or that they’ll be able to fill a prescription the next time they get sick.  It is inexcusable that any child should try to go to sleep or to school with a stomach grumbling for food.  Why on earth don’t we recycle paper or think about what chemicals we are putting into our homes?  Perhaps part of the problem is that we aren’t being honest with each other – or with ourselves – about what we can do to change what’s going on around us.

This is my list and my commitment is to put my time, energy and resources into scratching them off, so instead of having a list of embarrassments, I have a list of things that make me proud to be a member of the human race.  I hope you’ll add your thoughts and tell me how we can work together to change what we see when we look at each other.