The following blog post is a time-stamped, full transcript of Bob Preston’s interview of Bridget Strickland, Corporate Partnership of San Diego Habitat for Humanity. The episode was recorded December 26, 2019 and published on the Property Management Brainstorm Podcast. The audio version of this podcast can be found at this link of the North County Property Group website, as Episode 28- Giving Back to Our Community: Property Management Brainstorm Show.
Bob Preston: 01:04 What's going on Brainstormers? Before we get started today, I'd like to offer you a copy of my new eBook called Best Practices for Renting Your Home. It's a quick read and offers all of my tips from being in the property management business for over 20 years. Navigating the pitfalls and safety nuts that come with being a landlord. This eBook has recently been published and is offered as a free download on the North County Property Group website. Find it at this web link and download it for free at https://www.ncpropertygroup.com/ebook.
Bob Preston: 01:48 Welcome, welcome, welcome to the Property Management Brainstorm show. I'm Bob Preston, your host, broadcasting from our studio at North County Property Group in Del Mar, California. If you're new here, please subscribe so you have ongoing access to all of our great episodes and if you like what you hear, please pay it forward with a positive review. Earlier in 2019 at North County Property Group as we were beginning the new year, we felt that our company values should include conducting our business in a way that manages our impact on the environment and pledges our support to the San Diego community for solutions to social problems such as low income housing and discrimination. And after careful consideration and review of many organizations with the above criteria in mind, North County property group made a philanthropic commitment to San Diego Habitat for Humanity. I would be happy to share the details of this commitment with anyone interested. In fact, you can find a page on our company website about it and I'll post that link in our episode notes, but it's ncpropertygroup.com/corporate-responsibility. We decided to commit to Habitat for Humanity because they checked all of our boxes for the selection process in picking a philanthropy. First of all, they're aligned with our passion for San Diego housing. They are a nonprofit organization to which we can donate not only financially but also by giving our time. That was important to us. We wanted an organization which is nondenominational, unaffiliated with a religion and does not proselytize, and the organization also needed to welcome participants regardless of race, religion, age, gender, political views, or any other form of discrimination that otherwise might be divisive in this process. We reached out to my guest today, Bridget Strickland, the Corporate Partnership Manager for San Diego Habitat for Humanity, and we created a structure for us to help with their philanthropic charter. We're pleased to have Bridget on the show today. Hey Bridget, welcome to Property Management Brainstorm.
Bridget Strickland: 03:53 Thank you so much. I'm so happy to be here.
Bob Preston: 03:55 I know I've been excited about having you on the show today and while your organization is not directly related to property management, you most certainly do a lot of hard work to provide housing to many deserving folks in San Diego County. And I'm sure our listeners would love to hear more about you and deserving folks in San Diego County who received the housing and um, maybe can just tell us what's San Diego Habitat for Humanity all is about.
Bridget Strickland: 04:20 Absolutely. Absolutely. So I've been with habitat for humanity now for three years. I had the opportunity to join the habitat team after spending about 17 years here in San Diego working in the nonprofit sector. And I really sort of got passionate about it when I realized that housing was one of the biggest equity issues we face to go and we need to overcome to continue to thrive as a community here in San Diego. I'm a native San Diegan, so it means a lot to me to give back here locally and uh, sort of dedicate my career to this.
Bob Preston: 04:50 Well that's interesting cause you've worked for other nonprofits as well. So it sounds like you've dedicated your kind of career to that as well. Absolutely. Okay. So, tell us a little bit about the charter of Habitat for Humanity and what's the principle upon which your team operates?
Bridget Strickland: 05:04 Sure. Our mission is actually to seek to put God's love into action by bringing people together to build homes, communities, and hope. But that's founded upon the belief that everyone, meaning every single person on this planet deserves a decent, affordable place to live. Our belief is that when someone has a safe, affordable place to live, that so many other problems they face will disappear or be resolved. Things like if you have an affordable home, you have more money to support your family, you have an opportunity to purchase healthier food, do all of the other things that come along with it. Being a homeowner has been proven to have greater health consequences for our family, for improved health, improved education of children, and really sort of create a generational stability in family units.
Bob Preston: 05:46 Okay, terrific. Now you mentioned God, so let me just get this out there. There may be a perception that Habitat for Humanity as a religious organization do you get asked a lot about and how do you answer that question?
Bridget Strickland: 05:58 Actually, no, I don't get all that much about it. It's surprising. So, we were founded as and remain a housing ministry based upon Christian principles and values. But unless someone spends a good bit of time on our website or looking into our history, a lot of people don't realize it. But I think that's part of the Testament to our commitment to our mission and our fundamental belief that everyone, regardless of race, income, ethnicity, religion, deserves a safe place to call home.
Bob Preston: 06:28 Okay. So if I could summarize, I mean, one of the things we were looking for is not necessarily a religious group, but one that was nondenominational and was not exclusive.
Bridget Strickland: 06:37 Absolutely. We are. And we are a nonprofit 501C3 here in the United States, which means that we don't proselytize. We don't do anything like that.
Bob Preston: 06:48 Okay, terrific. Thanks for clarifying that. So, tell us how the habitat program works.
Bridget Strickland: 06:51 Absolutely. So, we focus on creating home ownership opportunities for San Diego families at San Diego Habitat. We do that two ways. The most well-known is the new construction of homes. Um, so habitat homes are built and sold to habitat homeowner families for an affordable 30-year mortgage that we finance ourselves at 0% interest. Habitat Homeowners all have an income somewhere between 50 and 80% of the area median income here in San Diego, which means on average that that puts them somewhere in the $53,000 to $85,000 range.
Bob Preston: 07:25 So these are hardworking people, but they, you know, who are by no means rich or you know.
Bridget Strickland: 07:30 Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the first things we look at as is their ability to repay a mortgage. And then we look at whether or not they have a clear need for improved housing, which can take the shape of a lot of things here in San Diego. And then they also have to be willing to partner with habitat on sweat, what we call sweat equity hours.
Bob Preston: 07:48 What does that tell us about sweat equity?
Bridget Strickland: 07:49 Sweat equity hours. So every habitat homeowner commits to putting in 250 to 500 hours of sweat equity on their home working on the homes that we're building for their site, where they'll be buying, working in our restore locations. There's four of those county-wide or working even in our offices depending on their abilities or their interests. Okay.
Bob Preston: 08:09 And what is the restore you mentioned?
Bridget Strickland: 08:16 We actually accept the donation of new and gently used home improvement items. Um, whether that's from individuals like you or me who are, who are doing things around our home to improve our homes, or whether that's from construction overages or anything else are we hope to divert things away from the landfills that are new or gently used reusable material. And it allows us the opportunity to then sell those at a greatly discounted price to the general public so that a home improvement may remain affordable for a lot more people in San Diego.
Bob Preston: 08:49 Okay, terrific. So I think you've kind of made it clear that your intent is to provide affordable housing, not free, and you're not providing handouts to people. They're hardworking folks. We call them hand ups that happen. Okay. So, I give him my hand up, right. For someone who might need some help and they need to apply and qualify. So you've touched on some of that a little bit, but what's the process for qualifying? I mean, what, what is involved there?
Bridget Strickland: 09:08 Um, it is quite a bit of a process. We, when we're everywhere working in a community, one of the first things we do once we have a project that's moving to the construction phase is we will actually put together what we call an information session for people interested in home ownership and they have to attend that info session first and foremost to apply for our house. Once they've done that, then they fill out an application. We actually start with a credit check to look at their credit history. It's essentially like you or I going to a bank, but they just don't have to make as much money as, as anybody else would going to a bank. They make less to qualify for their mortgage. It then allows us the opportunity to then start doing things like home visits and, and family interviews and things like that. We have a whole committee dedicated to family selection at habitat and then once they're qualified, they've gone through that family selection process, the recommendations made to our board and our board has final approval.
Bob Preston: 10:01 Are you able to share any statistics like for, you know, a person who receives one of the homes? Uh, how many it would apply typically?
Bridget Strickland: 10:09 Oh gosh. Um, it actually depends on the project because oftentimes because we serve San Diego County wide, San Diego County is very large. Um, so depending on the location of the homes that we're actually working on. For instance, our homes in Logan Heights, um, in San Diego city we had somewhere in the range I believe of about 300 to attend our who attended our info session about a 100 to 150 applied. And then from there we w we narrowed that down to essentially the 11 homeowners that will actually purchase a home there.
Bob Preston: 10:43 Okay. So North County Property Group came onsite a couple months ago, and I think that was the Logan Heights property, right? Is that complete now?
Bridget Strickland: 10:52 It isn’t. But like I said, we're building 11 townhomes and their state is set into three stages. So there were four homes that were sold last December. We have four homes we are actively working on now to finish closing so that those homeowners can move in this year before the holidays. Um, is our hope. And then we're have the final three that are actually just in framing stages now. They should be done mid-2020.
Bob Preston: 11:16 That's right. I remember I was cutting fence boards in one of the slabs there, I think when those were being done. And yeah, there were some of, I guess I'm still called the roller king for painting all those fence boards with rollers that day. That was pretty fun. Okay. So how long does it typically take to complete a project from the time you break ground and the time people are actually moving in?
Bridget Strickland: 11:36 So our construction processes is somewhere in the range of about 10 months. Um, that of course can suffer delays from things like permitting and other stuff that comes up as we go along. Sure. Weather, weather, yes. Just this week. So, it's a great opportunity in those 10 months for us to engage a good number of volunteers helping us build.
Bob Preston: 11:57 And what are the homes like once they're completed?
Bridget Strickland: 11:59 Uh, we focus on building three and four bedroom units that are all somewhere in the 1300 to 1400 square foot range. Um, that's our main focus and most people are kind of astonished because our projects integrate into a community. You wouldn't necessarily know that they were affordable homes. Most people who come in and walk through an almost finished home tell us that, gosh, I, this is someplace I would go to rent. And, and that's, that's our goal. Our goal is to build sort of San Diego standard housing.
Bob Preston: 12:31 Yeah. The Logan Heights property was, you know, very attractive, really, really nice in a, in a good location. What are some of the other San Diego locations where you've created affordable housing?
Bridget Strickland: 12:41 Gosh, so in San Diego we have built 374 new homes. So, uh, the neighborhoods really, really range anywhere from Oceanside to Lakeside to Escondido and all the way down to, Encanto to Imperial Beach. Uh, we've really built in a good number of communities here in San Diego and we're looking forward to building in many more.
Bob Preston: 13:06 But all of yours are within San Diego County?
Bridget Strickland: 13:08 San Diego County. Yes, yes.
Bob Preston: 13:10 And there are organizations of habitat for humanity all over the world, right?
Bridget Strickland: 13:15 There are, so we are in more than 70 countries worldwide. And here in the United States there are essentially affiliates in all 50 States. And we serve somewhere in the neighborhood of 1400 communities.
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Bob Preston: 14:29 How'd you guys do it? How do you build such an affordable home?
Bridget Strickland: 14:32 Uh, we don't is probably the easiest answer. So once we, once everything is said and done, our homeowners pay no more than a third of their income for all of their housing costs. So what that means is that their mortgage payment is actually the last thing to come out that third, we first look at property taxes, home insurance, HOA dues, we take those right off the top of the third of their end of the first third of their income. And then what's left is what we figure into our 30 year mortgages. So our homeowners on average pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $250,000 for their, for their homes. And our homes are ranging from $350,000 to $450,000 for us to build. So, most of that difference is made up by donations, like the donation from North County Property Group and other companies like you that believe in our work, individuals in the community who make financial contributions to support us. And then the retail sales from our four retail locations here in San Diego.
Bob Preston: 15:30 Okay. So we're kind of a corporate sponsor, but the day we were there, we were there with just everyday people who decided to be onsite to volunteer. So, this is not exclusive to corporations.
Bridget Strickland: 15:40 Absolutely not. We have volunteer opportunities posted on our site pretty much every week of the year as long as weather permitting. Right. Um, that we have individual volunteers coming out, companies like yours, all kinds of different, uh, organizations, faith communities all join us so that they can give back to our community as well.
Bob Preston: 16:00 And do you have companies providing like, I mean just strikes me, there could be materials, there could be time, there could be cash. I mean, donations could come and, and you know, philanthropy could come in a whole variety of means.
Bridget Strickland: 16:12 Absolutely. Absolutely. We have a number of sponsors that actually provide materials for our projects on an ongoing and regular basis. And it's amazing to have those people that we can call on when we need them.
Bob Preston: 16:28 And how many homes, I mean, I know you've been with the organization for three years. How long has San Diego habitat been around?
Bridget Strickland: 16:31 We've been, we actually celebrated our 30th anniversary last year, so 31 years here in San Diego. We were founded in 1988 and we started actually as San Diego Tijuana Habitat, so we did both sides of the border for a while and then when habitat for humanity international made the move to sort of pick up all the international affiliates, they actually the 70 countries worldwide besides the United States are actually run through our international sort of parent organization.
Bob Preston: 16:58 Okay. So, San Diego Habitat is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity international?
Bridget Strickland: 17:03 Absolutely. So essentially what I'm, it's kind of like a franchise if you think about it. We are independently operated, our financials are separate, everything is separate from that perspective. But we have a partnership with Habitat for Humanity International where we share the brand and we work together on nationwide partnerships and activities and programs and then they then also operate internationally and we actually tied back money to support some of our international operations as an organization.
Bob Preston: 17:31 And I would guess you share some guiding principles and things like that.
Bridget Strickland: 17:34 Absolutely. Our mission, vision, everything is shared between all of our organizations.
Bob Preston: 17:39 How many homes in San Diego County has habitat built?
Bridget Strickland: 17:41 We built 374 new construction homes, but the one thing I didn't get a chance to touch on when we were talking about programs is, we have what we call neighborhood revitalization work that we do in San Diego. Which is where we help individuals that meet our income guidelines. So they're sort of in that 50 to 80% of the area median income and we actually will come if they own their homes currently, we will help them with critical home repairs and also home preservation work to keep their homes safe, livable and efficient for them in the long-term to make sure that they can stay stable in their housing for whatever reason. Sometimes it's job loss that affects people. Sometimes we're dealing with a fixed income older population in San Diego that need the opportunity to keep their homes nice for the long-term so they can continue to live there.
Bob Preston: 18:32 It seems to me that just habitat coming into a community like Logan Heights helps revitalize though because you're helping build up the community, bringing some pride back maybe to certain areas.
Bridget Strickland: 18:42 Yeah. Neighborhood revitalization was really established because it isn't, it isn't always helpful to come in and plop down new homes. Sometimes you need the ability to raise up the entire community. So really when we started doing neighborhood revitalization work a few years ago, um, it's one thing to put down brand new homes when the neighbors are struggling to repair a roof and the neighbors can't paint the outside of their house because it's too expensive for them. This allows us the opportunity to come in, not just put down new homes, but make a real commitment to the entire community so that we can help them grow and thrive as a community. And in Logan Heights, there's a huge fear of, of potentially being displaced as urban sprawl continues from downtown San Diego.
Bob Preston: 19:24 I bet. Yeah. So is there ever kind of a, I don’t know, a sales process by you guys that has to occur before you get the permits to be able to build affordable housing? Like in Logan Heights neighborhood? I don't know if you know, understand what I mean? Like, did you have to kind of appeal to the community before saying, okay, we're coming in and we're going to do this? You know what I'm saying? Was there any sort of, I don't know, PR effort or Hey, I'm kind of rest in the fears before?
Bridget Strickland: 19:52 So somewhat, yes, we do go in, um, especially with neighborhood vitalization team, one of the things they do is community outreach as well. So they'll reach out to, especially some of the community organizing groups, um, and talk to them. But within the Logan Heights project, it's actually special because it was part of a larger project that was already planned and ongoing when we stepped into the process within our other communities that we work on, almost all of our housing has to get approved by city councils. So, we, when we're talking with Encinitas and when we're talking with National City to projects, we have coming up for starting construction in 2020, those are going before the community and we are taking community comment on them on a regular basis. So our goal is to come into communities like that and as I said, build homes that look just like the community and help people understand that affordable housing doesn't mean anything different from the house that you live in right down the street.
Bob Preston: 20:49 Yeah, I mean, I can imagine that the, you know, just going before the city housing and permitting process, there's got to be a lot of discussion about the project. Well you have some pretty high-profile volunteers, at least nationally and internationally. Perhaps the best known is Jimmy Carter. He was out there at age 95, I think, uh, drilling, you know, into boards with a, with a power drill recently. Now not all of your volunteers probably are comfortable swinging a hammer or using a power drill. Right. So what are other ways that people could volunteer if they're not comfortable going on and doing some heavy lifting on the building site?
Bridget Strickland: 21:26 Well, let me just put a plug in there for the fact that our, our superintendents, our construction heads that run each project are great at finding opportunities for anybody in any comfort level. But we do have opportunities to volunteer in our restores. We can't run our four restore locations without volunteer help. We do have time for people to dedicate in our offices. As I said. Um, we also have a play house program that we run for companies in San Diego and we rely on volunteers to help us get all of the parts and pieces ready for building play houses as well as helping us lead the opportunity to build play houses with volunteers. We have a lot of ways that people can potentially get involved and I'd encourage anybody interested in volunteering specifically to check out our website, come to a volunteer orientation. We do them at least once a month and it's a really great way to get to know habitat and understand where you might fit in.
Bob Preston: 22:16 That's cool. I know even the day we went down on site, someone gave us a quick orientation. I think you showed up at lunch and gave us a quick spiel about, about the culture of the organization and what you guys stand for and that was all really good. We had a, we had a great time onsite, although at the end of the day we were like wow, that was really cool. I mean doing some heavy lifting, but we were all kind of happy. We don't do that every day just to be perfectly honest. You know, we all wanted to go back to our desk job.
Bridget Strickland: 22:40 Absolutely. The first time I volunteered with habitat, I learned to drywall and I don't think I got all the drywall dust off my body for probably a full week.
Bob Preston: 22:50 Yeah. My wife pulled uh, my tee shirt out of the washer and said, what is the white? Why is it, what's all this? Why all that was paint from the, from the boards, from the fence parts. I painted with habitat. Anyway, pretty funny. I always thought the tee shirt you gave a should've been before we started. The work. But anyway, we appreciated that. Hey, I don't know if you're willing to share some kind of a personal story with us, but I always ask my guests, you know, is there some story from your life? It could be either personal or it could be party or professional development, a story that had some kind of an impact on your life and if you're willing to share it.
Bridget Strickland: 23:24 Sure, uh, gosh. So I would probably say, well, one of the things, especially starting to work for habitat, I dedicated my life to the San Diego community doing what I do because I love it here. I'm a native San Diegan. I'm from, I was actually born in Chula Vista and spent most of my life growing there and I had the wonderful opportunity to benefit from growing up here, which I think is, this is an amazing place to be. And I feel very fortunate both of my parents are from the East coast, so I know what life could have been like. Um, but the one thing I will say, especially starting to work for habitat, reflecting on my own life, for the most part, we were, my brother and I were raised by a single mom. My dad was living halfway across the country. Um, so she really did most everything on her own. We, when they came here, they were a Navy family. So we didn't, we don't actually, we didn't actually grow up with any family around us in San Diego. And at one point when I was in middle school, we almost lost our house. And you know, those normal things that happen in life, layoffs and other things happen. And thank goodness in San Diego, actually the rental market was strong enough for us to be able to, in the sheer Nick of time, rent our house and actually move in with, with the man who would actually eventually become my stepfather. And it made it so that we could sort of have a fresh start without having to sacrifice our lives. And my mom went back to school, she got her master's degree, she became a teacher here in San Diego. We moved away for a little while and came back and when we did, we moved back into that same house. Wow. That's a really cool story. Yeah. I was a year and a half old when they bought it and they still have it to this day.
Bob Preston: 25:15 So the rental house, you actually came back into town. You bought the house you were renting? We rented our own house. We bought our house when I was a year and a half old. We came back into town, um, after my mom finished her, her masters and everything, and we were able to actually move back in and they still own that to this day. And thinking about that and thinking about growing up with a single parent in San Diego, I'm astonished every day how she made it work and it looking at our families that we help every day. I see that reflected back at me, these families that are just trying to make it work so they can live and thrive and be here and give their children an amazing life. And I looking back, I think that my mother did that for me and she did that for my brother and I, I am so appreciative every day for the opportunity to do that for other people.
Bob Preston: 26:06 Wow. That's an incredible story. Now you're here in my studio and we get to sit across from each other and I can just see the passion in your eyes and a little bit of a tearing up there too. You got me, you got to meet, choked up by the story and that's really cool. And that helps drive your passion for the housing and the San Diego San Diego market today. Absolutely. Yeah. Well, you know we, we try to do our part as well. Ours is a little different but it is a good match with uh, San Diego Habitat. And if someone wanted to get in touch with San Diego Habitat for Humanity to learn maybe more about your efforts or volunteering, how would they go about doing that? You mentioned your website.
Bridget Strickland: 26:40 Yeah, our website's really the hub for anything they want. All of our staff has actually listed, so anybody can go onto our website. And actually find my information and reach out to me directly if they want to. Um, but I also encourage them, we have volunteer information posted, we have information posted for other companies that might want to get involved and.
Bob Preston: 26:57 Google San Diego habitat for humanity. And what if somebody lived in a different city?
Bridget Strickland: 27:03 I'd encourage them to, first of all they can reach out to me and I'll help them find their local affiliate. But also, if they go online to habitat.org which is the Habitat for Humanity International site, you they can put in their zip code right away and it'll direct them immediately to the habitat that's most local to them.
Bob Preston: 27:18 Okay, terrific. Now also post a link to your website in our episode notes and you've got a really cool frequently asked questions page also, which um, probably cover some of the material we already did today. But it's kind of nice to be able to reread that and I'll publish that link as well. So, I'm also just going to throw this out to anyone who is listening who might want to join us on a building site day with North County property group with one of Bridget's projects with habitat we'd love to have you. Um, we reserve in advance with Bridget. She sets us up on a site for a particular day and so if you want to get out with this and get your hands dirty a little bit, we'd love to have you along. So, give me a call or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will reserve a spot for you alongside our team to lend a hand. Bridget, any last comments or thoughts you would have before we wrap up today? No, I don't think so. Okay. Well terrific. I'd like to thank you again for joining the show. Terrific episode. I think our listeners are going to really enjoy hearing about Habitat for Humanity. And as we wrap up today, I'd like to make another quick plug to our listeners to click on subscribe, give us a like. Also, please pay it forward with a positive review to help encourage more great guests like Bridget to come onto our show. And that concludes today's episode. Thank you for joining the Property Management Brainstorm show. Until next time, we'll be in the field working hard for our clients to maximize their property value and rental income and maintain top tenant relations. And we will catch you next.
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