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March 2018Mayor David Bennett as seen in The Hilton Head Sun

In November, 2017, Hilton Head Regional Habitat for Humanity held a workshop for prospective homeowners. Nearly 200 applications were submitted for the 16 to 20 proposed homes. A few weeks ago, the walls were raised on the last Habitat home in the current phase of the Glen, and a completed home was dedicated. Truly Habitat is a fine example of what can be accomplished to address the critical need for affordable housing. They offer people tangible help, tremendous hope and terrific homes.

Who would enjoy some help, some hope and someplace to truly call home? Perhaps a better question is: Who wouldn't!? Habitat's mission statement declares: "We believe that no one lives in dignity until everyone can live in dignity. We believe that every person has something to contribute and something to gain from creating communities in which all people have decent, affordable places to live. We believe that dignity and hope are best achieved through equitable, accountable partnerships." This fine organization has successfully created these partnerships. The Glen, a friendly Island neighborhood, now exists where once there were no homes.

While this is cause to celebrate, there's also challenging news to hear. It's obvious that 16 to 20 additional homes barely scratch the surface of the demand for affordable housing. Does that mean continued helplessness, hopelessness and homelessness for others? Absolutely not. The efforts of Habitat have fanned the flames of other initiatives. We, as a community, have had epiphanies. Island businesses are aware that they cannot sustain high quality results without high quality employees. Citizens acquainted with a certain quality of life and concerned for the well-being of others are speaking out for coordinated efforts to establish not just homes, but better transportation options as well. The voices of administrators in our schools and the health care industry are also resounding.

And your Town has heard. We are working to identify catalysts for improved partnerships and more resources to address the needs of our Island. The Public Planning Committee, chaired by Councilman David Ames and supported by Town staff, is working to set policy and produce a strategic plan for affordable housing that is uniquely suited to Hilton Head Island. Resources are being identified to bridge the gap between the costs to develop and operate quality housing and the incomes available to pay for them. Partners, such as the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce, are stepping forward to be part of the solution on behalf of the businesses they represent.

You see, everyone needs help, hope and homes - even if it appears that some of us already have them! Our people are vital to our community. Our homes, although they may be located on an island, are certainly not islands in and of themselves.

So please join in the efforts to be the help and hope that is vital. Become a voice for those who need a home. Partner with organizations such as Habitat. Advocate for public and private partnerships to advance affordable housing initiatives. And persevere for a bright Hilton Head Island future.

Because, after all, who doesn't want help, hope and a home?

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