“At the beginning of this new millennium I was asked to discuss here in Oslo the greatest challenge the world faces. I decided the most serious and universal problem is the growing chasm between the richest and poorest people on earth. Citizens of the 10 wealthiest countries are now 75 times richer than those who live in the 10 poorest, and the separation is increasing every year, not only between nations but also within them. The results of this disparity are the root causes of most of the world’s unresolved problems, including starvation, illiteracy, environmental degradation, violent conflict, and unnecessary illnesses that range from Guinea worm to HIV/AIDS.”

These words are from Habitat’s most famous volunteer and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in his 2002 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In our own community, we see this disparity. The families that Habitat serves have incomes between 25 and 60% of the area median income for Wake County. The average income for a Habitat homebuyer in Wake County is $26,537. The homebuyers we work with serve the Wake County community every day through their occupations in healthcare, childcare, and retail.

I am so proud of our families and the hard work they do each day. Just imagine trying to make homeownership work on an income of $26,537! It takes a partnership to make it work. At Habitat, we do our part by offering an affordable home with great mortgage terms, but the homebuyers certainly do their part—balancing a family budget with meager resources. Over 90% of Habitat Wake homeowners are still living in their homes today!

An interesting note on global income disparity: While the gap remains wide, progress is being made. Average wages of those in the wealthiest countries is now only 45 times that of those in the poorest countries. I know you would agree that the gap is still much too wide. And sadly, the gap is growing within the United States.

Habitat not only helps those in need receive a decent place to live, we also help with asset-building, a critical step in addressing wealth disparity globally.