Bainbridge City Council hears from Habitat for Humanity

Published 9:05 am Monday, February 21, 2022

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Tuesday night, Bainbridge City Council had a special guest presentation from Rich Massa with Habitat for Humanity. Massa informed City Council that Habitat for Humanity plans to begin actively building affordable homes in the area in the near future.

Habitat for Humanity had once been active in Bainbridge, but was later disbanded. City Manager, Chris Hobby estimated the last time Habitat for Humanity was actively building homes or even hosting community weekend builds was nearly 10 years ago. However, the model for Habitat’s build has completely changed since then.

Massa began by explaining what Habitat for Humanity really is.

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“Habitat is an economic driver, first and foremost,” he said. “We are one of those rare non-profits, who are actually developers that build homes, create equity, improve neighborhoods, create a tax base, hire local contractors and give people an opportunity.”

Massa went on to say Habitat for Humanity is not a handout, though.

“We run this (Habitat for Humanity) like a business,” Massa said. “That doesn’t mean I don’t have a heart or that I don’t care, but I do care about moving our mission forward.”

Massa said their mission so far has been successful in Thomasville and Cairo, which is why they started looking to move their mission into Bainbridge. Massa said his hope is to move into Bainbridge by this spring, if not sooner.

“The Habitat model you’ve seen in the past was started by great people,” Massa told the City Council. “But, it’s not the model we need to move the needle forward when it comes to affordable housing.”

Massa shared that Habitat’s goal is to create housing for people who may not even realize they qualify.

“We want these people who work at Wendy’s or Publix or even the same people who work for the City of Bainbridge to qualify,” he said.

Massa shared that his background was in commercial real estate and realizes that no one builds starter homes anymore, due to the affordability.

However, Habitat’s goal is to attack that margin of people who do want starter homes, though.
“We have a variety of different programs,” Massa said. “We partner with the USDA and community banks and really aim to be that fabric of the community.”

While Massa wants to work with people who need starter homes, he said he also has no problem foreclosing on individuals, because he believes in accountability.

“I want people to know, if they are going to be a part of this program, then there is a certain accountability and responsibility to that,” he said.

Massa said Habitat for Humanity currently has three lots in Bainbridge with a plan already developed for the house model they will use.

“We are just here to help, and we would really like to hear the areas you want us to attack or the neighborhoods,” Massa explained to the City Council. “We are not here to just build two or three homes; we want to take over the Southwest region.”

Massa ended with his hope to meet with local industries and employers to see what their employees most needed.

“We have the chance to get people who are making $12 or $13 an hour into a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house,” he said.

Massa shared they don’t just give those people the keys, though. They work to educate them financially and give them tools to be successful in eventually moving up to a larger home.

The City Council was excited to hear this and said they look forward to improving the homes in the community.