Some Indianapolis nonprofits still feeling impact of lumber shortage

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INDIANAPOLIS — After hitting record highs in May, the prices of lumber are finally beginning to fall. Still, the costs remains significantly higher than pre-pandemic.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), lumber prices have skyrocketed more than 300% since April 2020, subsequently causing the median price of a new single-family home to increase by about $36,000.

NAHB said it is working government officials to address the sharp price increases, which they said are impacting house affordability across the nation, and find solutions. The impacts have been felt significantly by home buyers, suppliers, but also nonprofits, including several in Indianapolis.

Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity said recent increases in building materials and labor costs, combined with a lumber shortage, have forced them to stretch thin.

“We’re making it work as much as we can, but there’s a lot of challenges, and we’re really trying to figure out how to sustain and how to plan ahead,” said Abri Hochstetler, associate director of communications and annual giving for Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity.

Hochstetler said by planning ahead and focusing on sustainability, they can continue to keep their homes affordable, which is why they do what they do.

“The mission of Habitat for Humanity is to provide safe, affordable opportunities for local families,” she said. “The affordable is the key part of that. One way we make it affordable is by keeping costs low. These recent increases have really stretched us to make that possible.”

Hochstetler said they’ve seen recent increases on several fronts, being the costs of lumber, building materials and labor, but also based on where the homes are built.

“We’ve seen 20 to 30 percent increases, it really varies depending on the home build,” she said.

Rebuilding Together Indianapolis said they have had to put some projects on hold and find temporary solutions until they can get products at a reasonable price.

“It’s difficult, especially when we focus on pinching every penny so every penny can go back into the homeowner’s houses so they can live happier, healthier lives,” said Ali Brown, executive director of Rebuilding Together Indianapolis.

Brown said the nonprofit works to help with home renovation and repair projects for seniors and individuals living with disabilities. Their home projects focus on improving safety and health.

“We’re trying to do more with less money and at more expensive costs, but people need it. Home security is so important,” Brown said.

In a normal year, Brown said they budget knowing how much the materials needed will cost for projects, but this year, not so much with the fluctuating prices.

“It’s really hard when somebody needs a hand railing and to budget for that it’s $100 worth of wood and supplies and this year was $200 to $250,” said Brown.

She said, even paint was difficult to come by over the last year.

“We had a senior with a hole in their floor in need of repairing, trying to find matching flooring took a six-to-eight week wait,” said Brown.

She continued, “We’re no extreme home makeover, we don’t leave it a gorgeous palace, but what we do is we make sure they can safely live there.”

In 2021, Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity plans to build around 20 homes and Rebuilding Together Indianapolis plans to do 15 home projects and renovations.

The lumber shortage and price fluctuations won’t stop their missions, but unfortunately, they could slow them a bit.

“Particularly the increase in lumber, building materials and labor, it makes it difficult to plan ahead. Obviously we have to plan well in advance, prepare our families for those opportunities and get those building plans in place,” said Hochstetler.

Hochstetler said one of the ways people who are interested in helping can get involved is, “If you have extra materials or lumber around your house, we have the Habitat ReStore. We have five locations around greater Indy.”

Through the ReStore, people are able to donate home goods or items that go in your homes. Habitat ReStore, a home improvement thrift store, will sell the new and gently used merchandise at a low cost, with all proceeds benefiting the mission of building homes and helping families.

“We’re trying to find the right mix and knowing that we can have community support to help make these — close the gap is a significant thing to help us plan ahead,” she said.

At Rebuilding Together Indianapolis, Brown said, “We’ve been working on 15 houses here. Those homeowners were scheduled to be on the docket last year and we had to put them off to this year and string them out.”

“When you’re a nonprofit and trying to put all of this together, it’s hard,” she continued.

Brown said donations have not been coming in as fast throughout the pandemic, particularly the corporate donors. She said a lot of them have had to re-assess where their money is going, and so now more than ever, they are relying on donations to help drive their mission forward.

“It’s hard enough knowing that seniors can’t cover their bills and have to work even when they should be retired, and they also have to be safe,” said Brown.

Both nonprofits say they are always looking for more volunteers to help them, help others. You can find more information on the websites for Greater Indy Habitat for Humanity and Rebuilding Together Indianapolis.

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