It is with great excitement that we announce the partnering of Triangle Community Foundation, Chatham County, and United Way of Chatham County in declaring the winner of the new pilot grant focused on a collaborative approach to affordable housing challenges in Chatham County. In support of the grant, each organization provided $10,000 to the $30,000 grant.
A panel of volunteers from all three agencies selected a project called “Land Becoming Home” as the 2016-17 grant recipient. Land Becoming Home involves a collaboration of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle, Chatham Habitat for Humanity, and Chatham County Council on Aging.
“At Chatham Habitat, we get calls every day from people who own land in Chatham County but who cannot afford to repair their existing homes,” said Anna Spears with Habitat for Humanity. “In some cases, this may mean no running water, extremely high utility bills and massive structural damage. The repair costs could be enormous or the home is simply not repairable.” For these families, staying on their land is of the utmost importance,” Spears said. “Family members may be close by, or the land may be their only asset. People in these situations may have no alternatives.”
Land Becoming Home focuses on this reality and tests a unique solution with two key elements:
* It will identify a low-income household on family-owned land where the home structure is beyond repair. Land ownership will help leverage a zero-interest loan to replace the failing home with an energy-efficient, low-cost tiny home (less than 800 square feet) that is less costly to operate and maintain. The tiny home will be sold to the owner through a zero-interest loan. Utility cost savings will help the owner cover the small mortgage involved.
* A second component involves a tour and other strategies to educate public officials and the community about substandard housing conditions in Chatham. Follow up discussions will focus on how people end up in such poor housing situations and the barriers that prevent them from leaving.
Habitat for Humanity will handle the loan financing, Rebuilding Together of the Triangle will manage the building project and the Council on Aging will provide follow-up wrap-around services and help identify potential homeowners in need. Many of the homeowners in these situations are age 60 and older and often come to Council on Aging for help.
The three agencies involved in Land Becoming Home could not have supported the project alone, according to Daniel Sargent, director of Rebuilding Together of the Triangle. “We are so fortunate that our partners across Chatham County were willing to look at challenges in new ways and then roll up their sleeves and work together to give neighbors a safe, healthy home to live in.”
Similarly, this is the first time that the three funding agencies have come together around a collaborative grant in Chatham County. “This joint grant indicates a special level of commitment to collaborative solutions with a broader impact,” said Dina Reynolds, executive director of United Way of Chatham County.
According to Lori O’Keefe, president and CEO of Triangle Community Foundation, the selected grant project is a unique approach to addressing affordable housing in rural areas, which has many root causes that are intertwined. “If successful, the concept developed in this program has tremendous potential for broader replication.”
County Manager Renee Paschal agreed. “Addressing affordable housing needs is a top priority of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners. The selected grant project has opted to focus on a need that is often overlooked. We salute the grantees for spotlighting and addressing situations like this.” One of the grant partners, the Chatham County Council on Aging, consistently works hard to help older adults live in their homes as long as possible. Executive Director Dennis Streets said, “We offer meals-on-wheels, in-home personal care, minor home repair, donations of assistive equipment and other such assistance. But, if the house is structurally unsafe, these services are not enough to maintain a senior’s independence and well-being. That is why the idea of the ‘tiny home’ is so vital and exciting.”
Land Becoming Home is a one-year-pilot that gets underway July 1, 2016. The three partner agencies have a specific timeline to accomplish their key steps. At the project’s close, they will produce a final project report detailing the outcomes of their new and exciting mission to benefit the Chatham community.