Home affordability has been a growing concern for the past several years and home prices have skyrocketed since the initial onset of the global pandemic. While affordable housing isn’t a new concern, homeowners and renters, particularly those in the lower- and middle-income brackets, continue to struggle to find quality, affordable housing. Stagnant wages combined with insufficient supply to meet demand have pushed the cost of homes out of reach for millions of families. Homebuilding since the end of the Great Recession hasn’t kept pace with population growth, which is leading to an even greater shortage of available homes.
Women in the United States are 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men, with single mothers facing the highest risk. Women are also consistently underpaid as employees and occupy 60 percent of the nation’s lowest-paid jobs. One organization looking to help increase access to home affordability is Habitat for Humanity. Here is Tucson, 2021 Women Build committee chair Celina Stude is making a difference for the women in our community.
Celina first joined Habitat Tucson as an intern while earning her Sociology degree at the University of Arizona. After graduating in 2017, she returned to Habitat Tucson as a volunteer and found her true passion in the Women Build community. She was excited when she heard there was a Habitat build that not only built homes but helped empower women.
Women Build is an annual event bringing people together to build stronger, safer, and more equitable housing in the Tucson community. It also provides an opportunity for women to take a proactive step in serving and learning the skills they need to succeed in the challenge of changing their communities.
Before joining Habitat Tucson, Celina worked in hospitality for 15 years. She chose to take a step back from her director position and complete her bachelor’s degree. While in school, she wanted to find an internship for something she was passionate about and worked with her counselor to identify the right opportunity. She found the perfect fit in Habitat’s Home Services department that was similar to a position in the mortgage industry she had recently taken to get through school.
Shortly after graduating, Celina received a call from a friend inviting her to join and co-chair a new committee called Women Build. She loved the idea of the program and was excited to find another way to be involved in the community. Celina didn’t think twice when she got the call to take the lead as the official chair of the committee.
Celina is passionate about helping families figure out a way to find and buy affordable housing. She has continued her career in the mortgage industry so that she can actively connect people to grants, programs like Habitat Tucson, and down payment assistance programs. A recent study shows that for low-income families, stable affordable housing can decrease economic stress and food insecurity, help keep families together (and keep kids out of the child welfare system), reduce the rates of domestic violence and alcohol dependence, and limit school changes among children.
Celina says that she actively targets and tries to connect with women in the housing industry. Her goal is to build a community of women that support each other and empower other women to make positive changes in the Tucson community.
“I want to work for a woman that inspires me and I look forward to more of that. It’s something I want to be a part of too.”
From a young age, Celina knew she wanted to work, lead and meet new people. She was inspired by her mother’s work ethic and passion and jumped in to help with the family business at the young age of 12. This model combined with a handful of women has helped support what she is doing at Habitat and in her career.
In the last year, Celina has seen a lot of growth and positive changes in increasing visibility for women in leadership positions. She sees companies really trying to build an inclusive environment where women feel supported and included. But she knows there is still so much we can do.
“I really like to ask questions because I want to find out how I can better support my team and everyone around me.”
Celina says asking questions is one of the best ways for women to be included in conversations. Women should not be afraid to speak up, not be afraid of failure. Women should be talking about their ideas and getting involved. She says asking questions and having people that believed in her and understand her passion have really helped build a community that knows and cares about the changes she’d like to see.
Celina’s passion for the Tucson community, empowering women, and her drive to help people find truly stable and affordable housing options is why she is our June #ChoosetoChallenge spotlight.
Thank you Celina for challenging us all to be part of something bigger.