top of page

Front Porches and Financial Empowerment: Inside Habitat for Humanity's Affordable Housing Solution

Updated: May 2, 2023

Family standing on the front porch of their new Habitat for Humanity home.

Imagine sitting on your front porch, sipping sweet tea and watching the world go by. It's a timeless image that evokes a sense of community, safety, and belonging. But did you know that front porches play a crucial role in breaking the cycle of poverty for some local Chattanoogans? It's true, and it's all thanks to the innovative work of Habitat for Humanity. Recently, the organization's president and CEO, Jens Christensen, shared the powerful story behind their unique approach to housing at our East Brainerd Kiwanis event. The highlight of the presentation? The mission that Jens is leading, along with his team, volunteers, and donors to pull local Chattanoogans out of generation poverty one-by-one, plus the surprising role that front porches play in keeping our communities safe. Read on to learn more about this inspiring story of hope and community.

In the heart of Chattanooga, Tennessee, a powerful story of hope and community is unfolding. It's a story of a local non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, and its tireless efforts to break the cycle of poverty and provide affordable housing to the city's most vulnerable residents.

Jens Christensen, President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Chattanooga, speaking at the East Brainerd Kiwanis event, sharing the story of the organization's innovative approach to housing and community development.

At the forefront of this story is Jens Christensen, the President and CEO of Habitat for Humanity in Chattanooga. With over 17 years of experience managing the Community Kitchen, another non-profit organization in the city, Christensen understands the struggles of the working poor all too well. Now, at Habitat for Humanity, he's working towards the organization's mission of giving people the opportunity for home ownership.

But the road to affordable housing in Chattanooga is anything but smooth. The city's housing deficiency was at a staggering 4,000 in 2013, and the median price of homes in the community has doubled since then. This has left a growing number of Chattanoogans struggling to find affordable places to call home, with over 40% of renters in the city being housing burdened.

This is where Habitat for Humanity steps in, working to provide a pathway out of poverty through affordable housing. And they do it in a unique way - with big front porches. As Christensen shared at a recent East Brainerd Kiwanis event, the idea behind this design comes from the 1950s, when front porch sitting was a popular pastime. It was a way for communities to look out for one another and keep each other safe. Habitat for Humanity believes that by bringing back this tradition, they can help build stronger, safer communities.

But the impact of Habitat for Humanity goes far beyond just front porches. Their approach is more like that of an investment company - but instead of buying the next big company, they're pulling the next local Chattanoogan out of generational poverty. Habitat for Humanity raises funds from local philanthropists, applies for government grants, and assembles teams of volunteers to build houses from the ground up. They then sell these homes to selected candidates with no down payment and 0% interest, with the selected candidate required to participate as a volunteer in building their own home - a way of paying with sweat equity.

The results of this innovative approach speak for themselves. Habitat for Humanity's program has a default rate of just 1% on mortgage payments, compared to the national average of about 3%. This means that they're not only providing affordable housing to those in need, but they're also helping them achieve financial stability and independence.

In the end, the story of Habitat for Humanity in Chattanooga is a story of hope and community. It's a story of people coming together to build a better future for themselves and for their city. And with their unique approach to affordable housing and the power of front porches to bring people together, Habitat for Humanity is helping to transform the lives of local Chattanoogans one home at a time.

If you missed out on this event, be sure to join us at our next one and learn more about how you can get involved in creating a brighter future for our community. Click the button below to stay updated on our upcoming events.


bottom of page