Earlier this fall, I worked alongside fellow Ohioans with Habitat for Humanity to build a home for Air Force veteran, Mark Jones, in Nelsonville.
It was what is called a Blitz Build, where you try to complete 70 percent of the home within 48 hours. With the help of sponsors Rocky Brands and OhioHealth — and nearly 200 enthusiastic volunteers who showed up for the build — we succeeded. It was amazing to watch a house appear out of a foundation that fast. Habitat is impressive: they do a lot of good for communities and families in Ohio and around the country.
Habitat and its volunteers don’t just build houses for families that need help; they give people and families safe and affordable places they help build and can proudly call their own. Homeowners work on their house from the beginning, adding their own “sweat equity,” and though the cost of the house is less because of volunteer labor and donated materials, homeowners buy the house with a Habitat mortgage.
At the end of the process, families who were renters, whose paychecks were going mostly into monthly rent, become homeowners able to build some equity and financial stability.
While I was volunteering in Nelsonville, I got the chance to talk with the homeowner, Mark Jones, as he joined in pounding nails and building his own home. He was looking forward to having his own home, and grateful that so many caring people had come out to support him to make his dream a reality.
I have enjoyed working on over a dozen Habitat builds over the years, including a tradition of volunteering on my birthday, which I’ll do again next month. Throughout my time in public service, I have sought to support Habitat’s work, including by helping to structure the Softwood Lumber Grant program, which has provided free lumber to over 19,000 Habitat homes.
Earlier this year, I authored bipartisan legislation to protect Habitat from unnecessary federal rules. It changes a recent regulation under the Dodd-Frank banking law that would negatively impact Habitat by requiring that fee appraisers must receive “customary and reasonable” compensation for their services.
Many Habitat affiliates have traditionally accepted these appraisals on homes on a donated basis. This saves money so more homes can be built and more families can be helped. My change will save money on every home and has the potential to save Habitat millions of dollars a year. Good volunteer organizations like Habitat should not be burdened by unnecessary Washington red tape; my legislation will create certainty and give more needy families a chance to get a Habitat home.
Thanksgiving is about spending time with friends and family while giving thanks and reflecting on our blessings. As we count our blessing this year, let’s also think about others who have fallen on hard times and be thankful for groups like Habitat who are there to help families get back on their feet.
I will continue to support Habitat and fight for my legislation so that more people like fellow Ohioan Mark Jones have the opportunity to own a home and build a better life.
Rob Portman is a Republican senator who represents Ohio in the U.S. Senate in Washington, D.C.