Austin Habitat for Humanity offers the dream of affordable homeownership for families and individuals who wouldn’t have thought it would be impossible. For nearly 35 years, Austin Habitat for Humanity has been on a mission to end the cycle of poverty housing. With over 470 homes built by staff and community volunteers, this extraordinary non-profit holds true to their belief that everyone deserves a decent, affordable place to live. Austin Habitat CEO, Phyllis Snodgrass, digs deeper into the importance of bringing people together to build strong, stable, and self-reliant communities.
Q & A With Phyllis Snodgrass
Q. WHAT DROVE YOU TO GET INVOLVED IN YOUR COMMUNITY/ORGANIZATION?
A: After working for years as a CPA in real estate accounting, I knew I wanted to do something that allowed for more creativity and a stronger connection to the community. Where I landed was building a career in non-profit management – specifically work in community development and now in the affordable housing space. Leading a non-profit checks all the boxes for me – it allows me to use financial management and critical thinking skills along with creativity and compassion to effect change. When the opportunity to lead Austin Habitat for Humanity was presented, I knew I could not pass it up. It was the position I had been training for my whole life, without knowing it.
Q. HOW HAS AUSTIN CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
A: Austin has grown from a sleepy college town to a city that everyone wants to move to. And with this amazing growth comes the challenge of increasing strain on our transportation infrastructure, pricing pressures on what were once affordable neighborhoods, and less affordable housing options overall for hardworking Austinites. It’s time for our community to admit that it is growing up and to decide what we want a “grown-up Austin” to look like. Will we choose to be innovative, diverse, welcoming, and inclusive, or will we just build homes for the wealthy and drive our workforce farther and farther away from jobs, schools, and opportunities?
Q. WHAT GETS YOU OUT OF BED IN THE MORNING?
A: The opportunity to make people’s dreams come true. Habitat for Humanity is uniquely situated to have a significant impact on affordable housing in our community and through this incredible ministry I get to work alongside community leaders, volunteers, homeowners, and an incredible Habitat team to build homes, communities, and hope throughout Central Texas. I get to see people at their best, giving generously because they believe in what we do. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Q. WHAT ARE SOME WAYS AUSTIN COULD SOLVE THE AFFORDABLE HOUSING PROBLEM? WHAT SOLUTIONS HAVE YOU SEEN IN OTHER CITIES?
A: Austin is one of the fastest growing cities in America because it’s a place where people and companies want to be. If we want to solve the affordable housing crisis in our community we need to commit together to end housing scarcity. We can do this by building more homes, of all types, while increasing the amount of income-restricted affordable housing. As land prices continue to rise, our only alternative is to allow smaller lots and homes to be built in order to lower the cost of market-priced housing.
Q. HOW DO PEOPLE GET INVOLVED WITH YOUR COMMUNITY/ORGANIZATION?
A: There are so many great ways to get involved with Austin Habitat for Humanity but it all starts with care and concern for your neighbors. Austin Habitat for Humanity was founded on the belief that everyone deserves a safe, affordable place to call home. From sponsoring a home build day to volunteering on a construction work site, from donating to or shopping in our ReStore to supporting better housing policies for our community, you can help us create the kind of affordable, welcoming, and inclusive community that we want Austin to be.
Q. TELL US ABOUT A UNIQUE SUCCESS STORY WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION.
A: Austin Habitat for Humanity homeowners work so hard for the opportunity to participate in homeownership and their stories are inspiring. I recently visited with a single mother working two jobs who managed to put in over 300 hours of “sweat equity” hours building her home and her neighbor’s homes. At her home dedication, you could see her children’s pride in their mother’s accomplishment. She was a role model not only to her children but to the many community volunteers and sponsors who came and worked alongside her to help her dreams come true. There is real magic that takes place on every Habitat for Humanity build site where volunteers and homeowners from different walks of life come together to build community. It never gets old!
WE’RE FOR HERE
Realty Austin is committed to supporting affordable housing in Austin through Austin Habitat for Humanity. Each year Realty Austin’s big-hearted agents raise $100,000 to sponsor a home build for a family in need, and volunteer over 2,400 hours building the home alongside the future homeowner. This year marks the 9th Realty Austin Habitat for Humanity Home Build that will be proudly dedicated to the new homeowner, Linda Herrera.
Austin Habitat for Humanity makes it easy to get involved and give back to the Austin community. Whether you’re interested in volunteering your time or donating funds, there are opportunities to give back at any level. Let’s come together to create supportive, affordable housing in Austin.
Featured in Austin Monthly Magazine
You can find Phyllis Snodgrass featured in the January 2020 Austin Monthly issue on page 7.