Habitat for Humanity needs money due to rising lumber costs

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CHICAGO — During the pandemic, the demand for lumber went through the roof, and it’s only home owners who are feeling the squeeze. One well known philanthropy known for “building for others” is running out of money when it comes to wood.

Habitat for Humanity has been building homes to break the cycle of poverty since 1976. The non-profit has built millions of affordable homes since then and operates in over 70 countries.

In Chicago, the pandemic has left Habitat for Humanity at a loss for lumber as prices for 2x4s have soared.

On the South Side volunteers hammer, saw and side at a West Pullman construction site. They hope a Chicago family will finance the project and eventually call it home someday. But with every cut, comes a new concern that habitat can keep up with the rising price of wood.

Jennifer Parks is the executive director of Habitat for Humanity Chicago and while prices for concrete, asphalt, windows and doors are all going up, Parks’ operation is coming up short when it comes specifically to lumber. A real hardship during framing season. Costs for timber are three times what they were before the pandemic.

“It used to cost us $6,000 to just to raise the walls of the house, to get it up and framed. It’s now costing us $18,000,” she said.

In March and April, the Habitat’s Chicago operation bought ahead to make sure their nine projects for the year in the West Pullman and Greater Grand Crossing neighborhoods could be completed. It wasn’t cheap, and now, the organization is tapped out because of exploding lumber costs.

Ashley Boeckholt co-founded the Chicago start up MaterialsXchange and provides a digital marketplace for the lumber industry. She said she isn’t surprised.

Boeckholt said the COVID-19 pandemic forced lumber yards to protectively slow down production in 2020. That was before industry leaders knew people stuck at home would begin unforeseen home improvement projects requiring lumber. And Boeckhholt said last summer’s civil unrest in big cities unexpectedly strengthened the suburban construction market as well.

Even Habitat for Humanity’s resale building supply shop called Restore is reflecting price hikes. Average sales used to be around $27. These days they are close to $49.

One in seven Chicago households has an affordable housing need. Habitat for Humanity asking donors to dig deep in the name of lumber. They are asking people to donate now through May 31in hopes of raising $150,000. This is all about lumber costs and how it is crippling costs. To donate and watch their virtual fundraiser, Under One Roof visit their website.

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