For 30 years, Chatham Habitat for Humanity has been working to provide safe, healthy and affordable houses to Chatham County families. This week, we …
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Chatham Ch@t | Anna Tuell, Habitat for Humanity
For 30 years, Chatham Habitat for Humanity has been working to provide safe, healthy and affordable houses to Chatham County families. This week, we speak with Anna Tuell, Chatham Habitat’s development director. Tuell, who’s worked for the organization for the last eight years, grew up in Wilmington and is an alumna of the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She’s had a passion for Habitat for Humanity and affordable housing since college, and loves coming to work everyday knowing that she’s helping to make sure that everyone in Chatham County has a safe, healthy and affordable place to live. Tuell lives in Carrboro with her husband Jason, 1-year-old daughter Conner, and the best dog in the world, Millie. In her spare time, she loves to read, cook and spend time outside.
Chatham Habitat for Humanity is celebrating its 30th anniversary this October. How was Chatham Habitat founded and how will you celebrate this milestone year?
Chatham Habitat was established in 1989 when a group of Chatham County citizens met at St. Bart’s Episcopal Church in Pittsboro to talk about the idea of founding a Habitat chapter. The group was enthusiastic, and eventually hosted a community meeting at the library, where more than 85 people agreed to charter a Habitat chapter and began to discuss raising the $35,000 they would need to build their first house. By September 1991, that group of founding members dedicated the very first Chatham Habitat house in Silk Hope. Until 1998, the organization was entirely run by volunteers — they raised the money, found the families, and built the houses from the ground up. Since then, we’ve built a strong staff, opened two ReStores in Pittsboro, and sold 136 safe, healthy, affordable homes to Chatham County families. We’re hosting an event for all our supporters on Oct. 18 at the Agricultural & Conference Center to celebrate this anniversary.
As you and the staff at Chatham Habitat prepare to celebrate this anniversary, what accomplishments stand out?
Above all, we are endlessly proud to work alongside the families who live in Habitat homes. I’ll never get tired of hearing each family’s story and watching them become homeowners. I especially love to see parents work to create opportunity for their children and to see those children grow up in safe, stable homes filled with love. I’m also amazed by the number of people who feel connected to the work that we’re doing. We have so many committed volunteers, donors, and staff members who consider Chatham Habitat a major part of their lives. Everyone is here because they care deeply about affordable housing, and that passion is the reason that we’re still here, 30 years later.
Affordable housing has been a common topic of discussion lately. How do you see Chatham Habitat as part of that conversation, and why is affordable housing such a critical issue?
One of Chatham Habitat’s foundational beliefs is that everyone deserves a safe place to call home. As we face enormous growth in Chatham County, we all have an obligation to ensure that every member of our community has the opportunity to live affordably. As it is now, one quarter of Chatham County households spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and without conscious effort, that number will only climb as the county grows. Chatham Habitat is an important part of the solution, but only part - we need affordable rental, senior housing, and workforce housing. It’s our goal to continue to advocate for time, funding, and enthusiasm around affordable housing in Chatham County.
What do the next 30 years hold for Chatham Habitat?
In the short term, we’re looking forward to continuing our largest project yet, Robert’s Run in Pittsboro. In addition to building our typical single family homes, we’re looking at increasing density to lower land cost per housing unit. We’re working with Jordan-Matthews High School to build one- and two-bedroom small houses that are suitable for single adults and small families on limited or fixed incomes. We hope to continue putting solar panels on all our houses to help lower energy costs and bring solar technology to diverse, low- and middle-income communities. Long-term, we are excited to explore new ways to provide affordable housing to those who need it. We would love to build homes specifically for seniors that prioritize aging in place and creating communities that support each other. We would love to build homes in partnership with local veterans. We intend to continue to be a leader in advocating for affordable housing in our community. One family at a time, year by year, we will spend the next 30 years working to build a Chatham County where everyone has a safe place to call home.
How can people learn more about Chatham Habitat?
Visit our website at www.chathamhabitat.org, and consider joining us to celebrate our 30th Anniversary Event on October 18th.