Vol 6 No 1 (2015)

Habitat for Humanity: The Challenge of Selecting Low-Income Homeowners

Melissa Mae Jackson
Athabasca University
Published July 9, 2015


In analyzing Habitat for Humanity's use of low income cut-offs as constructed by Statistics Canada, this article critically assesses the policy of this organization that determines which families are eligible to receive their interest-free mortgages. In demonstrating the failings of the adoption of low income cut-off (LICO) guidelines through the review of relevant demographic data and the presentation of the case study of a single mother, it is argued that using LICOs to determine eligibility for Habitat for Humanity's signature home building program creates unequal access among the poor to their services. In utilizing LICO scores to determine which families receive support, Habitat for Humanity is choosing families that are only poor in a relative sense, and not in the absolute frame that would best help Habitat for Humanity meet their stated mission of Housing for All. This use of relative poverty has created unequal access to Habitat for Humanity services among those who remain at the bottom of Canada's low-income demographic through no fault of their own. Framing Habitat for Humanity's policy decision through the Community Economic and Social Production Model reveals how balancing the books as a community development corporation creates unique challenges that must be continuously evaluated so that a not-for-profit organization can better support their social goals. Recommending the adoption of the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Federation's guidelines relating to income and housing, it is proposed that this change will better support the mission of Habitat for Humanity by creating fairer access to key programs. Keywords: Habitat for Humanity, low-income housing, low income cut-offs, community development corporation, not-for-profit