Habitat Omaha Women Build Homeowner on Her Front Porch

Women Build: Cost of Home Conversation

Right now, as home is more important than ever for so many of us, our community is facing unique challenges when it comes to housing. In honor of International Women’s Day 2021, our CEO, Amanda Brewer, was joined by Habitat Omaha homeowner Cynthia Stubblefield and Nebraska State Senator Tony Vargas to discuss the ways women are impacted by these challenges and how COVID-19 is exacerbating the situation.

Sen. Vargas and Brewer discussed some of the barriers families face, including the lack of affordable housing options and the gender wage gap.

“The pandemic shed light on housing disparities that existed long before the pandemic came around,” said Sen. Vargas. “Unstable housing can have lifelong sometimes irreversible effects.”

He provided information about LB196, which would prohibit discrimination based on lawful source of income under the Nebraska Fair Housing Act.

Currently, many local families who are using Section 8 vouchers are still struggling to find affordable housing options. Many, including single mothers, will go through the process only to be told that the landlord doesn’t accept Section 8 vouchers.

“There is a time clock on that voucher,” said Sen. Vargas. “Every single day or week is another potential breakdown in the system.”

Brewer talked about the importance of stability, both for renters and homeowners.

“To have that place of home, that stability of home, takes away a lot of stress that many single moms face,” Brewer said. “Every time you move it’s expensive, it’s disruptive.”

Stubblefield shared how the pandemic has affected her. Before COVID-19, she worked a full-time job in hospitality, a seasonal job and had her own catering business. But like so many in our community, she lost those jobs due to the pandemic.

“I went from three incomes to none,” Stubblefield said. “My income wasn’t as consistent as I needed it to be.”

By working with Habitat Omaha, Stubblefield was one of 308 families to secure mortgage assistance funds though the CARES Act. She now plans to obtain her real estate license and is currently helping to get after school programs started as kids are returning to the classroom.

“The reason why housing is so important is not simply because you have a roof over your head…it’s because where you live determines how healthy you are. Where you live determines your educational outcomes. It impacts your livelihood and longevity,” Sen. Vargas said. “My hope is that we don’t look at the solutions simply as we give money to address the short-term problems but that we try to fix these longer inequities that have existed in housing.”

Watch the Conversation