Norwich University’s Design+Build Collaborative (DBC) along with partners TD Bank, Downstreet Housing & Community Development (Downstreet), Washington County Mental Health Services (WCMHS) and Vermont Housing and Conservation Board announced today the completion and siting of LIFT, an affordable, energy-efficient tiny house designed and built by Norwich University students and faculty.
Leadership from all five organizations gathered on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020, at Downstreet’s office in Barre to celebrate the initiative and to showcase LIFT, the first house completed under this project.
“The power and importance of the Collaborative cannot be overstated, uniting students, faculty, and community partners in diverse fields to help address the affordable housing crisis in Vermont,” Norwich University President Richard W. Schneider said. The DBC was created through a $200,000 grant from TD Charitable Foundation last February. In the fall, TD Charitable Foundation contributed an additional $20,000 to produce another LIFT house, according to Schneider.
Funded through TD Charitable Foundation, the Norwich University School of Architecture + Art’s DBC partnered with Downstreet and WCMHS to come up with a way to reduce the financial cost of new housing while creating safe, healthy, and sustainable homes for vulnerable Vermonters.
Two new, custom-designed energy-efficient small homes (approximately 360 SF) that promote both modern and authentic architectural values will be located on a vacant lot once inhabited by blighted, deteriorating housing in downtown Barre, Vermont.
This event celebrates the completion and siting of the first of the two houses, which will be occupied by those who would otherwise be homeless.
Housing vouchers and capital funding provided by the Vermont Department of Mental Health will be paired with the dwellings in order to serve individuals who have mental illness and/or are at high risk of homelessness or are currently homeless.
With a WCMHS clinic less than a mile away, this initiative is well-positioned to address a real and growing need in our community while reducing preventative instances of homelessness, all with a financial approach that makes sense.
Norwich architecture professors Tolya Stonorov and Danny Sagan led a group of students in designing and building the first home that meets Downstreet, WCMHS and future residents’ needs and provided the construction documents to Downstreet for future buildings. Currently, civil engineering professor Mark Atwood and a group of construction management and engineering students are using these documents to build the adjacent second home after the Spring 2020 semester.
Downstreet, funded in part by a grant from the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, provides project development and property management, maintaining and ensuring that the home environments meet the residents’ needs. WCMHS works with colleagues and partners to maximize wrap-around services to ensure residents have a thriving living experience.
Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board said, “VHCB provided funding for this innovative pilot project that brings together Downstreet’s solid track record in affordable housing development with Norwich’s Design+Build Collaborative. With support services provided by WCMHS, the tiny homes will demonstrate a new model to address a housing need that is challenging communities around the state.”
About Norwich University’s Design+Build Collaborative
As the only university in northern New England to offer integrated professionally accredited programs in Architecture, Business, Engineering, Construction, and Nursing, Norwich’s Design+Build Collaborative calls on students to “act as well as conceive” and create solutions for local, regional, and global challenges. For over 20 years, our students have been addressing Vermont community needs through the construction of full-scale projects. Building on the seven different affordable housing prototypes Norwich has developed since 2011, the Collaborative not only continues to design and prototype regionally informed, resilient housing, but also organizes and coordinates related research and programs between the schools that make up the College of Professional Schools and partners with community organizations. Norwich University announced in February 2019 a $200,000 grant from TD Charitable Foundation, the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, to fund the development of a collaborative in the College of Professional Schools dedicated to producing affordable homes.
About Downstreet Housing & Community Development
Downstreet Housing & Community Development exists to eradicate the systemic housing challenges that affect Central Vermont citizens and communities. As Central Vermont’s leading affordable housing provider, Downstreet’s mission is to strengthen the communities of Central Vermont by engaging with people, providing affordable homes, and connecting people to the resources and services they need to thrive. Since 1987, Downstreet has served Lamoille, Washington, and Orange counties through programs and services that include: developing and providing affordable apartment rentals; home-repair loans; down-payment assistance for home buyers; financial wellness education; at-home support services for elderly and disabled adults; and real estate development consulting services. Downstreet constantly seeks to create new solutions and opportunities that will uplift our most vulnerable Vermonters and desperately close the housing gaps that exist today. Downstreet is part of the NeighborWorks network seeking to create opportunities for people to live in affordable homes, improve their lives and strengthen their communities. www.downstreet.org
About Washington County Mental Health Services
WCMHS is a comprehensive community mental health center providing mental health and developmental services throughout the Washington County community. Over 8,000 individuals are served annually by this private, non-profit organization with main offices in South Barre, Vermont. In 2018, WCMHS was recognized as a Center of Excellence by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide advocacy and practice improvement organization. WCMHS is a major employer in central Vermont, with over 800 full and part time staff.
About the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board
VHCB funds the development of affordable housing and the conservation of agricultural and recreational land, forestland, natural areas, and historic properties. Since 1987, VHCB has awarded more than $275 million to fund more than 13,000 homes for Vermonters and to support the conservation of 430,000 acres of land.
About the TD Charitable Foundation
The TD Charitable Foundation is the charitable giving arm of TD Bank, America’s Most Convenient Bank®, one of the 10 largest commercial banking organizations in the United States. Since its inception in 2002, the Foundation has distributed over $222 million through nearly 21,000 grants through donations to local nonprofits from Maine to Florida. More information on the TD Charitable Foundation, including the online grant application, is available at https://www.tdbank.com/corporate-responsibility/the-ready-commitment/funding-opportunities/.