History of Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette

Interview with Doug Taylor, President and CEO​

“In my 34 years at Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette, I have come to realize that we never have too much, but we always have enough!” 

Doug Taylor – 2017

Q:  Doug, in light of reaching the milestone of HFHL building its 300th Home, for you, where did it all begin?
A:  When I was in college I took a summer job as a homebuilder.  It was the worst job of my life.  I was the only unskilled guy.  No one wanted to work with me because I would screw up their work.  One day at lunchtime I asked a pastor for some perspective.  He replied, “God will use this experience in your life one day.”
     Not long after that, I discovered the concept of Habitat for Humanity – a holistic approach to ministering to people in need of affordable housing.  Was it possible that God would call me to a construction ministry like Habitat?  He did.
     In 1985, HFHL was ready to build its first house.  When I arrived at the build site, only 3 people showed up.  There were lines on the ground and shovels with a note that said “dig between the lines.”  That day, as we were digging, I wondered how with so few would we be able to eliminate substandard housing.
     I spent my evenings cold-calling on the phone marketing Habitat and recruiting vounteers (I made phone calls for 2 hours every night).   When we finally finished the first house, I told someone, “I don’t think Lafayette is meant for Habitat for Humanity.”

Q:  From those early days, how many houses did you think you might build in Lafayette?
A:  One day we drove all over Lafayette and identified 90 substandard houses.   We dared to believe that if we could build 90 houses, we would make a real difference.

Q:  Considering where Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette has come from, what is the significance of the 300th Home?
A:  God’s grace and faithfulness – not only providing for each family but also to the Greater Lafayette community.  It is a reflection of how God uses our weaknesses and limitations for His purpose and glory.
     The 300th Home represents how God has repeatedly used Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette to bring people together.  Indeed we build walls, but we also break down walls.  Churches who might not fellowship together or have opportunity to work together – come together to help build a Habitat house.  Union and non-union volunteers will work together on a Habitat build.  Partnering with HFHL, people forget their differences and focus together on the common goal of making a difference.
     Habitat’s 300th Home in the Greater Lafayette area has tremendous significance and meaning.

          300 houses translate into 750,000 volunteer hours.
          300 houses translate into over 45,000 people.

Q:  I have heard that you reserve the right to do the final power wash on each house when the construction is done.  Why Doug Taylor, President and CEO, doing the final power wash?
A:  I find that when I do the final power wash on a house, it is a great time for reflection.  It is the last task on a build.  Whether it was the first house or the 300th house, it is my time to consider all that God has done, all that so many people have done in order for the miracle of a house to be built.  Resources given, sweat equity by the homeowner, volunteer labor and support, diligent staff who did all they could, etc… and from it all a beautiful house emerges – ready to become a home.

Q:  What does a Habitat house mean for the homeowner?
A:  Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette builds a house into which a family will move and make their home.  Affordable homeownership through Habitat means stability; it means children can stay in the same schools with their friends (from 1st grade through High School); it means a capacity for a family to create wealth and save more of their income (typical Habitat homeowners reduce their monthly rent, housing payment from 50% or more of their income to a monthly mortgage payment that is 22% of their income).

Q:  Habitat for Humanity of Lafayette will celebrate its 300th home, and many more will follow.  Where do we go from here?
A:  Unfortunately the income gap is increasing.  A recent report on the City of Lafayette website revealed that over 10,000 households are paying more than 50% of their income on housing.  This is a community issue that must be addressed.  HFHL is going to have to find a way to build more, become a better advocate, and develop a more comprehensive approach (more than just building houses).  HFHL will need to consider areas such as Vocational Training, Financial Literacy, Neighborhood Revitalization.  Somehow, we are going to have to go beyond just building affordable housing.  We will have to strategize not only beyond certainty, but beyond uncertainty.  As a ministry of faith, with God’s favor and blessing, we can and we will find a way.  This is a crucial part of HFHL moving from a public perception of being needed to being absolutely necessary.