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Building affordable houses to give back to the community

Building affordable houses to give back to the community and what that means to you.
You may be in a position to create the home of your dreams, but many people aren’t as fortunate. Hurricanes in Louisiana, tornadoes in Mississippi, and severe flooding in Tennessee have destroyed homes—leaving residents homeless. The government might provide financial assistance, but volunteers are needed to rebuild the community with affordable housing and shelter.
With so many natural disasters, is rebuilding possible? Who would do it? Not everyone holding a hammer and nails knows about architecture and what’s needed to construct a house. So what can we do to help our fellow Americans get back on their feet and into homes again?


a hands-on plan for success


Make a difference

Seeking ways to answer this question, I thought of my wife working for the Associate Management Center owned by three brothers who participated in Habitat for Humanity. They spent a week working in Louisiana repairing a house, only to return a year later to see the house in the same condition as when they left. But unfortunately, the local people of Louisiana couldn’t keep the momentum going.
To be more impactful, the brothers formed Solid Rock Carpenters, a non-profit organization that gives outreach opportunities to volunteer for rebuilding projects to provide shelter for people in need. So when Hurricane Katrina hit, I volunteered to help. As a professional architect, I knew I could help find a solution with my expertise. People of all ages were there, families with children. Even eight to twelve-year-old kids picked up hammers and built trusses. Or they built birdhouses to decorate the homes, inviting the wildlife to have a haven.
Not all the volunteers could read the architectural drawings, so to build the walls, volunteers used markers to lay out the wall plates. Even with volunteer labor, the homes must be safe. This manual work was labor intensive, and it was essential to reduce the amount of human error. Was there a way to make building affordable houses more reliable and efficient?


Innovate for efficiency

It was time to dispense with the markers to streamline the process and improve the quality. Instead, we devised the idea of using printed labels in long strips. These construction drawings are stapled to the walls and color-coded to illustrate which studs go where. Now any volunteer can line up the plate label and start building. Volunteers unfamiliar with construction can correctly and reliably build walls because of this communication system.
There are exciting applications for disaster recovery. For example, the printed labels for twelve homes and assembly instructions fit into an overnight box. This system creates homes in days or weeks rather than months or years—a game-changer, quickly enabling the restoration of the community with affordable homes in disaster locations.
Our efforts pair with other organizations as well, amplifying their impact. With this system, the work became faster and more stable. Organizations once limited to repair and restoration efforts now have the opportunity to create new affordable homes. For example, working with 200+ Home Depot volunteers, we sought to create twelve new homes in White Sulphur Springs, WV. The community had suffered tragic losses in a devastating flood. The teams assembled walls, loaded them onto trucks, and shipped them to their final destinations. The teams completed the work, and the field was cleaned-up and swept for nails, all within two hours.
Our mission traveled to White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Johnsonville, Tennessee; and North Chicago, Illinois, to house more than thirty families in safe, affordable, and durable conditions.


Build affordable housing

Partnering with Matthew Homes and ReNew Communities in the Chicago area meant that building affordable homes doesn’t have to wait until disaster strikes. Our mission here is to build three hundred affordable homes and create a supportive community. Building three homes in May and two homes in June was quick. We framed walls and set roof trusses in a single day. The goal was to get the home “weathered in” quickly. The house is secured to store building materials and offers volunteers a safe and dry workspace in a week. This is our first step in building affordable houses to give back to the community.
Building multiple homes in the community simultaneously increases buying power, lowers the cost of materials, and maximizes volunteers’ efforts. There’s an opportunity to buy better products at competitive prices. With homes nearby, we optimize the labor and material efforts.
Most volunteers learn that the true reward comes from interaction with the homeowners and learning about the impact on their lives. I’ve seen firsthand how touched they feel to have someone whose sole motivation is to help. It gives real meaning to life to be able to provide someone with a home.


Rebuild a community

Not everyone has a home. Often land development is motivated solely by profit. Developers usually seek high density and soaring profits; building affordable homes rarely makes the cut. However, some municipalities understand the value and encourage affordable housing development. In addition, outreach programs help volunteers participate and give back to the underprivileged.
Building affordable homes helps individual families and makes stronger and more resilient communities. As part of our contribution to the community, not only do we prepare the printed labels, but we donate proceeds on behalf of our clients who use some of our architectural services. See our other posts from similar projects.
If you want to learn more about how you can help change someone’s life by providing them a home of their own,
contact us at 847-412-0692.