For the last 35 years, the names Jimmy Carter and Habitat for Humanity have gone hand in hand. So much in fact, every year, the president and first lady Rosalynn join hundreds of volunteers for a week-long building extravaganza known as the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Works Project to bring attention to affordable housing worldwide. WVPE’s Barb Anguiano sat down with President Carter to discuss the 2018 Works Project in St. Joseph County, and his thoughts on affordable housing.
Anguiano: Let's start with your name and your title.
Carter: My name is Jimmy Carter. I used to be president, but I'm not anymore.
Anguiano: And what do you do now?
Carter: Well, I run the Carter Center and I work [on] Habitat [for Humanity].
Anguiano: What's the biggest thing, what's the biggest takeaway you've had from Habitat in general?
Carter: Well, the one word that I would use, my attitude toward Habitat after 35 years, is one of gratitude. I'm just grateful for what Habitat has permitted me and my wife to do. It gives us a chance to put our Christian faith into practice by helping people in need without being a symbol of charity, because all the homeowners in habitat in America have to pay full price for the house. We don't charge interest because the Bible says you don't charge interest to a poor person and they also put in hundreds of hours of Sweat Equity, we call it when they work on their own.
Anguiano: How does Indiana compare to the rest of the country as far as…
Carter: Well I don't think I've ever seen another state that would cooperate all over the state in helping this particular affiliate do a Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work week. So I think the cooperation in Indiana on Habitat at least, is just superb.
When I was in the White House, the Housing and Urban Development program was one of our top priorities not only for me, but for everybody in the Congress of the United States and in Washington, but I think now unfortunately, the priority of housing has gone downhill. And in the same time, in our country, since I left office in particular, the difference between rich and poor people's income has just increased greatly. So the rich are getting much more richer every year, and they working people are getting more and more deprived of an equal chance in the economy.
You know, Habitat just plays a small portion of total house building in the world. I mentioned earlier that we're building a finishing a house every 30 seconds now, every 50 seconds somewhere in the world, but I think the main thing is to set a goal for all of us that every human being ought to have a decent place in which to live. I think it's one of the basic human rights just like freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
I think having a decent place to raise a family is also a basic human right. So that's what we work on with Habitat is that ultimate goal to be reached, but it needs attention of everybody who's interested in easing the difference between you know that and making every human being in America and other countries be self-sufficient and give them a chance to raise their children in a decent place.
Anguiano: Is there any last thing that you know, you might want to tell our listeners about being Jimmy Carter?
Carter: Well, the main thing I want to impress on the listeners today is just to use every influence you have to encourage up more attention being paid by banks and by city governments and by state governments and by the federal government to making housing available for everybody, decent housing. And that's what Habitat does in a very small, but growing way, and that's what everybody ought to be concerned about as a top human right for everybody.
Anguiano: Alright. Thank you so much.