Ann Felton Gilliland, chief executive officer and chairwoman at the Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity, took over the organization in 1991, when it built two to three houses per year with little funding and staff. Today, the Oklahoma City chapter is the nation’s seventh largest with more than 50 full-time employees, 45-50 homes built each year and two retail stores in operation. We caught up with Gilliland and got her thoughts on …

… the state’s housing market.

According to a Feb. 6, 2018, report on, Oklahoma fell from 37th to 40th place on the “Prosperity Now Scorecard,” which provides insight into the economic health of our state. At the time of the report, the Oklahoma income poverty rate was still above the national average. This creates a cost burden for homeowners, many of whom are paying more than 30 percent of their income to own a home. Because of these factors, the need for affordable housing continues to increase.

… the need for affordable housing.

This need for affordable housing is an ongoing concern worldwide, here in Oklahoma the demand is greater than one might expect. A study presented by the Oklahoma Housing Finance Agency at the 2016 annual housing summit assessed the need for affordable housing at 66,821 total housing units needed between 2016 and 2020 (43,942 for ownership; 22,879 for rent). The numbers are alarming, but at the Central Oklahoma chapter of Habitat for Humanity, we know these numbers can be reduced through the efforts of a community working together to provide affordable housing. Our chapter has provided affordable housing for over 950 hardworking limited-income families since 1990 – families who are not looking for a handout, but merely a hand up.

… Habitat’s role.

The Central Oklahoma chapter has served the Oklahoma City metro community for more than 30 years by providing affordable housing for hardworking, limited-income families. The significance of homeownership to a family who has struggled with substandard living conditions, high-crime areas and exorbitant rent is great. The stability that homeownership provides means better grades for children, a safer environment, more economical utility costs and a sense of security. It also allows families to use more of their discretionary income for things that are important to their well-being, such as health care and nutrition. Homeownership also improves the economy of entire communities.

… Oklahomans’ volunteerism.

Whether it’s in response to a natural disaster or just the ongoing need of an organization, Oklahomans are always quick to respond to the need for volunteers in our state. The Central Oklahoma chapter of Habitat for Humanity is only one of many organizations that rely heavily on volunteers to make a positive impact in our community. In 2018, we had more than 7,000 people lend a hand to our organization alone. It is because of traditional values that Oklahoma will always be a region that will provide assistance to people in need.

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