Energy-efficiency study leads to weatherization efforts in Baptist Town

February 5th, 2016 Comments Off on Energy-efficiency study leads to weatherization efforts in Baptist Town

Chris Johnson | The Fuller Center for Housing

Helping the residents of the historic Baptist Town neighborhood been a passion for Emily Roush-Elliott since she arrived in Greenwood on an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship in 2013 after receiving her master’s of architecture from the University of Cincinnati.

Roush-Elliot

Roush-Elliot

Helping families in need have simple, decent homes has been a passion for the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing since 1985, when it began partnering with homeowner families as a Habitat for Humanity affiliate. (They joined The Fuller Center in 2008.)

Their common interests are why Roush-Elliott — who is hosted by the Greenwood-LeFlore Economic Development Foundation and Carl Small Town Center —  and The Fuller Center have been frequent collaborators in the past few years. And they continue to lead efforts to improve the Baptist Town neighborhood, made famous as the home of blues legend Robert Johnson and the site of filming for the film “The Help,” which brought home the Best Picture Oscar in 2012.

One initiative that has had tremendous impact was the installation of 11 unused MEMA (Mississippi Emergency Management Agency) cottages that were designed for families impacted by Hurricane Katrina. With strong support from the city of Greenwood and approval by the Mississippi legislature, the cottages were turned over to The Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center, which installed the cottages with a few tweaks and turned them into beautiful, cozy homes for families in need.

“All 11 cottages are fully occupied, and I don’t think we’ve had a single person miss a single payment since we had people move in over a year ago,” Roush-Elliott said. “We’re just looking to have it grow and do more.”

Doing more included using grant money from Enterprise Community Partners to institute such projects in the neighborhood as a storm water management garden, which they also have used to provide on-the-job training for some unemployed women in the community.

Another area of focus in helping residents is energy efficiency. With the help of Emily McGlohn, assistant professor of architecture at Mississippi State University, and her “Audit Squad” of students, they have identified ways in which residents of the Baptist Town neighborhood can save significant amounts of energy — and money — by taking seemingly small steps to make a tremendous difference.

The energy-efficiency study

The Baptist Town community became a significant focal point of McGlohn’s wide-ranging concern for energy-efficiency issues throughout the Mississippi Delta region. This historic neighborhood of Greenwood provided the perfect testing ground with its mix of old homes, newer Fuller Center construction and the Katrina cottages.

“You can always assume new housing is better than old housing, but until you put numbers to it, it’s not as powerful,” McGlohn said. “That’s what we wanted — to be able to quantify the difference and put it into dollars to help people understand how important energy efficiency is in affordable housing.”

McGlohn

McGlohn

Using an array of tools — most notably powerful blower doors and thermal imaging cameras — they studied the 11 cottages’ performance compared to 10 older homes and six Fuller Center homes.

“We had our hypothesis that the cottages would be the most airtight, The Fuller Center homes would be in the middle and the neighborhood homes would be the least,” Roush-Elliott said. “Our hypothesis was certainly proved true, but it was so much more extreme than expected. We were blown away by the unequal distribution of energy costs. It’s a real inequity that we can address.”

“Some of them, we couldn’t even get a read on,” McGlohn said of the older homes in the neighborhood. “They were so leaky that the machine couldn’t even pressurize them.”

They used the test results to determine the personal financial impact of air infiltration alone in trying to maintain a modest home temperature of 65 degrees in December — on top of other factors in heating or cooling a home. They found that air filtration alone cost an average of:

  • $176 a month for the 10 older homes tested, or 14% of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income
  • $88 a month for the 6 Fuller Center homes, or 7% of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income
  • $35 a month for the 11 Katrina cottages, or 3% of a minimum wage earner’s monthly income

“That’s money in your pocket,” McGlohn said. “Housing should be efficient for everyone but especially for those in low-income housing. But it’s not just housing in this sector — we can all do little things to save energy.”

The study’s results, though, are just a starting point.

“It’s great to just swoop in with this information and say, ‘Yeah, your house is leaky,’ but what do you do with that information?” McGlohn asked rhetorically. “The little things that you do really add up in these situations. The solution isn’t always to knock down your house and build a better one. You can fill air gaps and weatherize the house. So we provided weatherization kits for all the homeowners.”

“Emily was able to come back and make recommendations to The Fuller Center about really simple things that they can do throughout the construction process that will save their homeowners more money on the back end on their energy bills,” Roush-Elliott said. “We had a little bit of grant money left so that we could buy a small energy upgrade kit, a little retrofit kit, for everybody who participated. It’s very simple things like caulk and weatherstripping.”

The biggest culprit for the older homes in the neighborhood was window air-conditioning units, something McGlohn said is not unusual for any home with window units.

“We assume that even though homeowners are supposed to take them out in the wintertime, they don’t,” she said. “Those units become like a big hole in the wall, and I’m not sure everybody understands what the effect of that is.”

Roush-Elliott said that her agency is working with The Fuller Center and others to distribute and install covers for the window units in the older homes. She also said that the weatherization study has caught the eye of state officials, who will come to Baptist Town in the near future to discuss major weatherization grants with local residents.

“I’m amazed how many people at the state level have taken note even though this is really small, so I’m hoping that this might grow into something a lot more,” she said, adding that there are plans to follow-up on the weatherization efforts to determine how much they might be saving residents on their energy bills.

Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center President Rocky Powers praised the work of both Roush-Elliott and McGlohn and said that their research will help as they partner with both existing and future Fuller Center homeowners, in addition to helping facilitate ongoing weatherization efforts for the older homes in the neighborhood.

HUD report on the Baptist Town project.

John Poros featured as ‘Our People’ on university website

January 11th, 2016 Comments Off on John Poros featured as ‘Our People’ on university website

John Poros will attend a conference on rural development at the White House Nov. 17. (Photo by Megan Bean)

John Poros (Photo by Megan Bean)

Via mssate.edu

How architecture looks is only a small part of its purpose, Mississippi State associate professor John Poros said. How it impacts people’s lives is of much greater consequence.

As director for the Carl Small Town Center at Mississippi State, Poros leads a team that includes an assistant director and roughly a dozen undergraduate students in the College of Architecture, Art and Design in developing design service projects in rural communities across Mississippi. Not only do the projects improve aesthetics in those communities, Poros said, they are meant to improve functionality, quality of life and spur economic and cultural development.

“Architecture is changing,” Poros said. “You can’t just sit back in your office and expect commissions to come in. You have to go out and find problems, work with communities to identify priorities and funding, then use your design skills to address the issues. The center, as a whole, introduces students to that ideal.”

A graduate of Columbia and Harvard universities and an MSU faculty member since 1997, Poros assisted with Carl Small Town Center projects for more than a decade before becoming director in 2008.

The center’s work, which began more than 30 years ago, has gained a national reputation. Teams work on several design projects each year across the state, ranging from parks, plazas and public buildings to improvements to historic structures and even entire downtown districts.

In November, Poros accepted an invitation to the White House Convening on Rural Placemaking in Washington, D.C., where he shared stories of the center’s success with public sector officials on the national, state and local levels, as well as representatives of non-profit organizations. The event was co-sponsored by National Main Street Center and Projects for Public Spaces.

Now, he said he wants to widen the center’s reach, building a legacy as a leader in tackling issues of rural sustainability, transportation and regionalism. By improving public infrastructure, transportation and partnering with surrounding communities to draw economic development opportunities, he said Mississippi’s rural communities could greatly increase quality of life for their residents.

This mission is exactly what Poros had in mind when he chose architecture as a career.

“Before I ever went into architecture, I believed it was something meant to work for the public good,” he said. “I found an enormous culture here at Mississippi State for work that does just that.”

MSU architecture team leads weatherization efforts in Delta

December 4th, 2015 Comments Off on MSU architecture team leads weatherization efforts in Delta

Greenwood_2 copy

Edward Holmes and Ben Marshall, fourth-year architecture students and members of the Audit Squad, work in Greenwood. (photo via Emily McGlohn)

By Zack Plair | Mississippi State University

A project through Mississippi State University’s School of Architecture is helping make homes in the Mississippi Delta healthier and more energy efficient.

Using funds from the Greenwood Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation and Enterprise Community Partners, a team from Mississippi State studied air infiltration levels in 27 low-income homes in the Greenwood area during the summer. Starting Monday [Dec. 7], the team will begin the process of weatherizing homes from the study to enable better climate control and reduce homeowners’ utility bills.

Emily McGlohn, an assistant professor of architecture at MSU who is the faculty leader for the study, said the team looked at houses in three categories: 10 older homes built in the 1950s and 60s, six built in the 1980s and 90s, and 11 “Katrina cottages” placed in the Baptist Town area in Greenwood for low-income families within the last 10 years.

Preliminary study results, McGlohn said, showed the most air infiltration in the older homes. That poses a financial and health burden on the residents, she added.

“A home is supposed to keep you warm in the winter and cool in the summer,” she said. “But in a leaky home, it makes it harder and more costly to maintain those temperatures during those seasons.”

Now that the study is complete, McGlohn’s team – which includes mostly student workers – has secured the labor and materials for basic weatherization at the 27 homes. With the homeowners’ consent, McGlohn said the team could install door sweeps, weather stripping around windows and better insulate areas around air conditioning units in windows that tend to let air into the home. Even those small fixes, she said, could make a big impact.

Further, she is presenting the study results to stakeholders in the Delta in hopes of inspiring a more comprehensive weatherization program and ensuring that low-income homes built in the future are more energy efficient.

Greenwood architect Emily Roush-Elliot, an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow cohosted by the Greenwood Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation and MSU’s Carl Small Town Center, partnered with McGlohn’s team on the project. She said it has already accomplished much, considering its $12,000 budget, and has the potential to accomplish even more.

“Financially, it will help a substantial number of low-income families,” she said. “It’s easy to scale up, too. I hope this is a small first step to so much more.”

Read more about the work.

McGlohn presents study results to housing board of directors

December 1st, 2015 Comments Off on McGlohn presents study results to housing board of directors

Emily McGlohn, assistant professor in the School of Architecture at Mississippi State, recently presented to the Board of Directors of the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing in Greenwood.

McGlohn presented the results of her study, “Energy Efficiency Rates of Low-Income Housing in the Mississippi Delta.”

The study was funded by Enterprise Community Partners and the Greenwood Leflore Carroll Economic Development Foundation.

She worked on the project with Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Emily Roush-Elliot.

McGlohn will also present the study to the Greenwood Rotary Club at an upcoming meeting.

MSU professor invited to White House conference

November 16th, 2015 Comments Off on MSU professor invited to White House conference

John Poros will attend a conference on rural development at the White House Nov. 17. (Photo by Megan Bean)

John Poros will attend a conference on rural development at the White House Nov. 17. (Photo by Megan Bean)

By Zack Plair | Mississippi State University

A Mississippi State University faculty member has earned an invitation to the White House for a conference focused on better rural development.

John Poros, an associate professor of architecture and director for the Carl Small Town Center at MSU, will attend The White House Convening on Rural Placemaking on Tuesday [Nov. 17]. The event will include federal, state and local public sector officials, national non-profit organizations, foundations and individuals to better align federal, state and philanthropic work to support and leverage the power of “placemaking” – a citizen-led process that helps activate downtowns and community gathering places.

The Carl Small Town Center has worked with Mississippi communities for more than 30 years, said Poros, the center’s leader for the last eight years. He said his team – which includes an assistant director and roughly a dozen undergraduates from the College of Architecture, Art and Design – work on designs for several community projects each year, ranging from parks, plazas and public buildings to improvements to historic structures and entire downtown districts.

“There are so many places in a rural environment that are important and can provide a sense of place,” Poros said. “When you’re talking about public spaces, you’re talking about quality of life issues.”

Most recently, Poros noted, the center designed a park and pavilion for the town of Houston, Mississippi, to anchor the Tanglefoot Trail, a 44-mile bike trail that runs from Houston to New Albany and helps drive tourism in the area. He said the center also has worked with communities such as Corinth, Laurel, Cleveland, Greenwood, Pass Christian and Jackson.

The White House Rural Council is partnering with Project for Public Spaces and the National Main Street Center to host Tuesday’s convening. It represents a new approach, said Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget Shaun Donovan, in partnering communities with federal resources to create public spaces that generate pride and economic development.

“It’s pretty simple. First, we partner with communities by seeking out their plans or vision. Second, we take a one-government approach that crosses agency and program silos to support communities in implementing their plans for improvement,” Donovan said in an email statement about the program. “Finally we focus on what works, using data to measure success and monitor progress.”

At the Washington convening, Poros said he hopes to share MSU’s knowledge and experience in dealing with rural communities, as well as learn about “common problems” and “common goals” among others attending from across the country. He called it “very heartening” to see the White House administration involved in advancing rural placemaking.

“These types of projects could have an enormous impact on the survival of some of these rural communities,” he said.

For more information on the Carl Small Town Center, visit http://carlsmalltowncenter.org/.

 

David Perkes presents final fall 2015 Harrison Lecture

November 3rd, 2015 Comments Off on David Perkes presents final fall 2015 Harrison Lecture

David Perkes, founding director for Mississippi State University’s Gulf Coast Community Design Studio in Biloxi, presented the final Harrison Lecture for the fall on Fri., Oct. 30, in the Robert and Freda Harrison Auditorium in Giles Hall.

Perkes discussed the work of the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and how the research center got its start.

He then used seven social-ecological principals to talk about resilience: maintain diversity/redundancy, manage connectivity, manage slow variables, complex adaptive systems, encourage learning, broaden participation, and promote polycentric governance.

“The work of our time is to figure out how to make resilient communities,” said Perkes, who challenged students to figure out what that means to them and their future work as architects.

Joining School of Architecture students, faculty, staff and friends were MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw and and Associate Vice President for Research J.A. “Drew” Hamilton Jr.

A reception was held after the lecture in the Giles Gallery, which is currently showcasing work from both of the College of Architecture, Art and Design research centers – the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and the Carl Small Town Center – as well as undergraduate research.

Architecture students, faculty hope Delta research will impact state

October 15th, 2015 Comments Off on Architecture students, faculty hope Delta research will impact state

Greenwood_1 copy

Edward Holmes and Ben Marshall, fourth-year architecture students and members of the Audit Squad, work in Greenwood.

Greenwood_2 copy

When Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow Emily Roush-Elliot recently secured a grant to conduct energy audits on a sample of low income housing in Greenwood, she knew just who to call on – the Audit Squad!

Using equipment she purchased from a previous grant, Assistant Professor of Architecture Emily McGlohn and her students, the Audit Squad, joined with Roush-Elliot to test air infiltration rates of 28 houses in Greenwood.

The group, which includes architecture student research assistants Ashtyn Bryant, Edward Holmes and Ben Marshall, has made six trips to Greenwood to conduct the tests where they are comparing the newly installed Katrina Houses in Baptist Town to a span of similar types of houses built in the area in 50s, 60s and 90s.

“Poor air infiltration rates – how much air passes through the building’s envelope – has monetary and health burdens associated with it,” explained McGlohn. “And a lot of times, low income housing isn’t very energy efficient. Since high air infiltration rates relate to how much heating and cooling you are losing, they also relate to high utility bills,” said McGlohn, “our goal is to identity issues and make recommendations to homeowners for improvements.”

The group is using their results to create “home energy retrofit” kits and a brochure that will explain what is causing higher energy bills and how to install easy fixes provided in the kits. Kits will include items such as caulk, weather stripping, window unit air conditioner covers, etc.)

“One of the biggest issues we see is that homeowners often keep their a.c. units in the window during the winter. So, covers will be included in the kits as an easy fix to help keep some of the heat from escaping,” said McGlohn.

The Audit Squad hopes the information they are gathering will encourage other housing nonprofits throughout the state to invest in home energy retrofits for their clients and to build more efficiently to begin with.

MSU research center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese program

October 1st, 2015 Comments Off on MSU research center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese program

An architect with Mississippi State’s College of Architecture, Art and Design recently returned from a week-long collaborative learning experience in Japan as part of an international group of young professionals.

Emily Roush-Elliott was selected for The Outstanding Young Persons Program of Osaka’s Junior Chamber International organization. She is the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow at the Fred Carl Small Town Center, the research arm of MSU’s School of Architecture.

Since 1981, the Japanese organization has worked “to encourage mutual understanding and communications beyond national frameworks.” Annually, it invites less than a dozen individuals representing a variety of career fields throughout the world to gather, discuss, learn from and encourage each other.

This year’s TOYP program covered a range of critical issues and was designed to expand the participants’ knowledge of and appreciation for the Pacific island nation’s highly evolved culture.

Roush-Elliot expressed appreciation for being selected, adding that she was “particularly excited” about this year’s program theme, “Designing Society for Equity.”

“Utilizing design thinking to respond to the globe’s most complex social equity challenges is at the core of my work and the work of the organizations of which I am a part,” she said.

“It was a great honor to be chosen as a participant. The JCI Osaka members were gracious and attentive hosts who introduced us to Japanese culture while also engaging us around issues of national importance, such as gender inequity and a parallel decline in population and economic growth,” she added.

In 2012, the Carl Center became one of only four national organizations designated to receive an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow.

Roush-Elliot arrived at MSU early the following year and since has lead the Baptist Town Neighborhood Reinvestment project in Greenwood. She holds degrees in design from Arizona State University and architecture from the University of Cincinnati.

During her time in the Leflore County seat, Roush-Elliot has focused on planning and constructing a park, playground, streetscapes and signage. She also has opened a community center and organized participatory activities in the Central Delta community.

Additionally, her multi-disciplinary MSU team had completed an 11-unit modular housing project in which low-income families were able to purchase new homes from the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing.

Roush-Elliot joins nearly 200 that have been selected for the prestigious Japanese program since it was established more than three decades ago. Among others are Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Inc.; former presidential aide Roger B. Porter; and Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity.

Greg G. Hall, associate dean of MSU’s College of Architecture, Art and Design, was a 1994 selection. He described the program as a valuable opportunity to discuss critical issues with colleagues from around the world, as well as Japanese business leaders.

“We’re excited that Emily was invited to participate,” he added. “Her experience as an architect and her work with the Carl Small Town Center in the Mississippi Delta provide an especially important viewpoint.”

The national Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship was created to provide a select group of the nation’s most outstanding early-career architects with opportunities for first-hand training and experience in sustainable community design work. For more, visit The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship.

See the article of MSU’s website.

 

Carl Small Town Center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese young professionals program

September 11th, 2015 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center fellow selected for prestigious Japanese young professionals program

Roush-Elliot

Roush-Elliot

Emily Roush-Elliott, Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow with Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center, has been selected to participate in the The Outstanding Young Persons (TOYP) Program in Osaka, Japan. Roush-Elliot is one of several young professionals around the world selected to participate in this year’s week-long program in September.

Since 1981, the Junior Chamber International Osaka has been inviting 5-10 young people each year who work in a variety of fields all over the world “to encourage mutual understanding and communications beyond national frameworks.” At TOYP, participants discuss, learn and encourage each other on a variety of subjects and learn about Japanese culture.

“I am honored to be selected to participate in TOYP 2015,” said Roush-Elliot. “I am particularly excited about the Designing Society for Equity theme this year. Utilizing design thinking to respond the globe’s most complex social equity challenges is at the core of my work and the work of the organizations I am a part of. I am confident that TOYP will advance my thinking and provide invaluable connections that I can bring back to Mississippi.”

Roush-Elliot will add to the 187 who have attended since the program’s start, including special guests such as Steve Wozniak, the co-Founder of Apple; former presidential aide Roger B. Porter; and Cameron Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity. See a full list of past attendees.

Greg G. Hall, associate dean of the College of Architecture, Art and Design, participated in TOYP in 1994, and described the program as a valuable opportunity to discuss critical issues with colleagues from around the world as well as Japanese business leaders.

“We’re excited that Emily has been invited to participate. Her experience as an architect and her work with the college’s Carl Small Town Center in the Mississippi Delta will provide an especially important viewpoint.”

Roush-Elliot, who holds a Master of Architecture from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Science in Design from Arizona State University, began working as a Rose Fellow with the Carl Small Town Center in January 2013 and has been leading the Baptist Town Neighborhood Reinvestment project. During her tenure, she has worked to plan and build a park, playground, streetscapes, signage and community events, as well as open a community center in the Delta community. Additionally, her multi-disciplinary team completed an eleven-unit modular affordable housing project in which low-income families were able to purchase new homes from the Greenwood-Leflore Fuller Center for Housing, utilizing 15-year, 0% interest mortgages.

The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship offers a select few of the nation’s finest, early career architects the opportunity for first-hand training and experience in sustainable community design work. Mississippi State’s Carl Small Town Center – a research center in the College of Architecture, Art and Design – was one of just four national organizations to receive an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow in 2012.

Carl Small Town Center featured in HUD’s EDGE magazine

August 12th, 2015 Comments Off on Carl Small Town Center featured in HUD’s EDGE magazine

via huduser.org

First-Time Homeownership with the Baptist Town Cottages

In the historic African American community of Baptist Town in Greenwood, Mississippi, 10 families recently realized the dream of homeownership with Baptist Town Cottages. The preassembled cottages were among the several thousand houses built for families in Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Working with numerous local partners, the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing acquired the Baptist Town Cottages and sold them to families in 2014. The cottages are part of the Baptist Town neighborhood revitalization project, which includes new parks, streetscape improvements, job training, and a community center.

A Proud History, but Lingering Problems

Baptist Town has a rich history stretching back to the post-Civil War era. Residents maintain that their community was one of the first in the Mississippi Delta where freed slaves could own property. Seventy years later, famous blues singers Robert Johnson and David “Honeyboy” Edwards were drawn to the community, based on its reputation as a haven for aspiring musicians who wanted to escape working in the fields. During the 1960s, civil rights groups used Greenwood as a base of operations to reach African Americans in the Mississippi Delta between Memphis and Jackson.

Despite the efforts of civil rights leaders, the city of Greenwood continues to be highly segregated and experiences many of the ills associated with segregation. Fifty percent of the estimated 10,000 African American residents of Greenwood live below the federal poverty level. Cut off from the city’s downtown by railroad tracks and a bayou, the Baptist Town neighborhood needs new investment, particularly quality, affordable housing. Many of Baptist Town’s houses were built for sharecroppers and are now largely dilapidated. A Harvard University survey of 165 homes in Baptist Town found that 136 were substandard.

According to Emily Roush-Elliott, an architectural fellow at Enterprise Community Partners which manages the cottage project, the built environment often reinforces social and economic inequity instead of helping residents. One of the goals of the Baptist Town Cottages is to reverse some of that inequity by providing desperately needed affordable housing and helping residents build financial equity through homeownership.

Baptist Town Cottages

Photograph of eight women in work clothes standing beside newly planted shrubs.
Women from the Ladies in Landscaping program learned new skills by creating a stormwater management garden. Credit: Emily Roush-Elliott

In 2014, the Greenwood/Leflore Fuller Center for Housing installed the first 11 of 26 cottages that the state had donated to Greenwood several years earlier. The Fuller Center selected families, all of whom were first-time homebuyers, based on need and ability to pay. Other partners on the project included the Greenwood-Leflore-Carroll Economic Development Foundation (GLCEDF), Mississippi State University’s Carl Small Town Center, and Enterprise Community Partners. The Carl Small Town Center was an early proponent of Baptist Town’s rejuvenation, having created a master plan for the community in 2001. That planning effort led to Greenwood hosting a participant in the Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship program, which places architects within development organizations to add value to projects through design.

The homebuyers were required to volunteer for service in the community or provide sweat equity to complete the cottages. Roush-Elliott and the Fuller Center worked with the future occupants to customize certain features of their homes, such as some architectural details, the color scheme, and the location of their cottage on the development site. The homes and their foundations are designed to withstand hurricane-force winds and have thick walls built with 2x6s instead of 2x4s. The cottages’ tight building envelope reduces heat transfer to help maintain a comfortable indoor temperature. As residents finish their first year in their new homes, the energy performance of the buildings will be compared with that of a typical affordable home in Greenwood.

The installation and finishing of the cottages were seen as a “joint investment in both the built environment and human capacity,” says Roush-Elliott, and were used to enhance the job readiness of some Baptist Town residents. Local residents received on-the-job training in carpentry and other building trades as they helped complete the cottages. For work that required technical specialties, the project hired local and minority contractors. Also, Ladies in the Landscaping, a program that helped train eight minority women in landscaping, completed an eco-friendly stormwater management garden.

Achieving Affordability

The homes are affordable to households earning less than 30, 50, 60, or 70 percent of the area median income. The homeowners financed their cottages using no-interest, 15-year mortgages, with average monthly payments ranging from $132 to $159. Through grants from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Dallas, the homeowners received $4,000 in downpayment assistance. Enterprise Community Partners’ Gulf Coast office sponsored homebuying workshops for families that included information on maintaining a home and credit counseling.

The total cost of the project was approximately $600,000, including the $232,477 estimated value of the cottages donated by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. The Fuller Center invested more than $350,000 in the project, which included a $45,000 loan from GLCEDF and grants and donations from local foundations, businesses, and individuals.

The Work Still to be Done

The Baptist Town Cottages are part of the larger Baptist Town Neighborhood Investment (BTNI) project, a collaboration involving GLCEDF, the Fuller Center, and other local organizations. Partners in BTNI, with significant funding from the Walton Family Foundation, have invested in public spaces, improved the walkability and visibility of streetscapes, and built a park designed by local youth. These smaller projects helped build community trust and overcome residents’ concerns about redevelopment promoted by nonresidents, says Roush-Elliott. After those projects were completed, residents became very supportive, she says, and actively helped complete the cottages. Residents now manage Baptist Town Community Development, a nonprofit that oversees the Baptist Town Community Center (which offers educational programs and health and fitness training), the community garden, and Baptist Town Day, an event held annually in October. Resident engagement is crucial to the long-term success of the remaining redevelopment projects — most importantly, installing the 15 remaining cottages.

Read more about the Baptist Town project.

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