New plan, new name, same need

For 12 years, Habitat Omaha partnered with the building community to hold Home Builders Blitz, an annual week-long event that brought together hundreds of individuals to transform neighborhood blocks in a matter of days. This year, the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 have made this type of event unsafe and impractical – even as the need for stable access to quality, affordable homes has grown.

In an effort to reduce costs and focus on homes that have been selected by families, we decided to hold on the nine addresses that were associated with our 2020 Home Builders Blitz. We shifted away from a week-long “blitz” and transitioned to a more flexible and customizable program — Pro Build — to continue building in a way that’s practical and safe.

As in past years, each of our Pro Build builder partners has committed to completing a Habitat Omaha house, either working on their own or in partnership with another builder. We provide support and some of the materials – like lumber, siding and sod – while others are generously donated by local companies and contractors.

One difference this year is the schedule. Between August and November, our builder partners have the flexibility to start and finish when it works best for them. And while normally the houses are all on the same block or two, this year’s sites are more spread out. Five are located in North Omaha’s Laird Street Neighborhood and two others are in Bellevue.

We’ve also seen changes to our volunteer and sweat equity opportunities. In August, we made the difficult decision to suspend most volunteer opportunities for the rest of the year. Before the pandemic, we were expecting to fill 14,500 volunteer opportunities this year. Now, we believe that number will remain below 3,500. The loss of these helping hands was significant as we formed our build schedules around projected volunteer support.

All sweat equity opportunities on the construction site were suspended. Individuals and families in our Homeownership Program are not able to build alongside our Pro Build partners this year. Fortunately, future homeowners are still learning about their houses through our online educational classes.

While Pro Build doesn’t look exactly the same as Home Builders Blitz, it will have the same outcome—in the end, seven families will realize the stability and independence that come with owning a home for the first time. The support of our nine Pro Build builder partners will make a difference this year and have a lasting impact for generations to come.