Cleveland’s Own: Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity

This month for Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own, Matt Kaulig had the opportunity to sit down and talk with John Habat, President & CEO of The Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity.

Habitat for Humanity is a global, nonprofit organization that brings affordable housing to communities and the families that live in them. The Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, founded in 1987, is dedicated to neighborhood revitalization and creating a world where everyone has a decent place to live.

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Cleveland”s Own Habitat for Humanity.mp4 – powered by Happy Scribe

Each month, Kaulig Giving and Fox 8 will highlight people, organizations and charities making a difference in Northeast Ohio. It’s time to celebrate Cleveland’s own.

Hi, I’m Matt, calling this month on Cleveland’s own, I’m excited to highlight an organization that helps low income families create strength, stability and self-reliance with affordable homeownership. Let’s talk with John Habat, the President and CEO of Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity.

I first became involved with Habitat in the early 1990s when my daughter’s Sunday school class came out to volunteer on a habitat project. And we came into the inner city and they had me, back then, working on the roof. And I’m up there and there’s no plywood. It’s just the structure, you know, and my little girls are down there, I’m thinking oh, my God, if I make a mistake, this is going to get ugly. But that was my first experience coming through my children’s Sunday school class.

What I love about Habitat. We change lives, there’s no other organization changing lives like we do because the work we do goes for generations. When you own your own house and you start growing roots, you start owning the neighborhood. That’s what we’re here in a neighborhood. That’s what we got, 10 houses going on the street. We want to change the trajectory not just of a family, but a whole community.

So you sign up, you got to meet three basic criteria. First of all, you have to need affordable housing. You have to have some skin in the game. You’ve got to come out and work on your project. It’s called Sweat Equity. Third is, you got to be able to pay a mortgage. Now, our mortgages are zero percent. We’re the bank. We’re the friendly bank, if you will. We don’t charge interest and we gear your mortgage payment to what you can pay.

So the more you make, the sooner you’ll pay off your house. But even if you’re making that 20,000 dollars a year, we still have a house for you. But last year here in Cuyahoga County, we did 24 houses. It’s a terrible number. And I’m going to tell you why it’s terrible. We could have done 240, OK? We could do 2,400 a year. And the need is so extreme. So, yeah, I feel good about doing 24 houses.

But what about all those other families? You know, they want their chance too. But when you understand how you’re changing a family, the future generations, they understand that that generation is spread, OK? And now they have a legacy of home ownership and fulfillment and now they can start creating family wealth, too. So, I want you when you go up and down these streets in the next several years, you’re going to see the private sector coming in and building some houses, too.

Yeah, we can come in and lose money. We’re not going to get 200 for a house, but sooner or later, the private sector is going to come in and say, “you know what? We can build a product there and we can make money”. And then I think, hallelujah, it worked! Last year, we had over 3000 volunteers that did 82,000 hours. Volunteers, which really is the lifeblood of this organization, come through corporate sponsors, team building exercises, churches and synagogues, other places of worship.

But again, this year, there’s not as many of those opportunities because of covid. Best thing you can do right now is donate or donate your stuff to the Restore, because that generates money for us, too. But I also want your viewers to understand this. If families get a fair chance, they’ll make it. And their kids will make it and their grandkids will make it. And having a stable, affordable home is how you start that process.

To learn more about how you can help, go to and to nominate a person or organization to be featured on an upcoming episode of Cleveland’s own. Visit kauliggiving/clevelandsown . Make it a great day!

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own

Fox 8 Cleveland’s Own is about good people doing good work in Northeast Ohio. WJW Fox 8 and Kaulig Charitable Giving Programs teams up to celebrate Cleveland’s Own by highlighting the best of our region in a big way! Each month, Fox 8’s Stefani Schaefer and Kaulig Companies and LeafFilter Executive Chairman Matt Kaulig, share a story about a person or organization from Northeast Ohio doing good work.

To see more Cleveland’s Own stories, or to nominate an organization to be featured, visit Kaulig Giving’s Cleveland’s Own page.