Saint Paul’s diverse, historic neighborhoods are gradually recovering from the housing foreclosure crisis, thanks in part to the efforts of community development agencies working to give families a hand up as they build their home ownership resources. Their work is getting a boost from an innovative new initiative developed by the USGBC Minnesota Chapter to transform abandoned houses into healthy, sustainable, and affordable homes.
During the worst of the housing foreclosure crisis, there were 2,500 foreclosed houses in St Paul; with 500 in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood alone. Today, Frogtown still has around 100 foreclosed homes.
The Dynamic Green Home program is a partnership between NeighborWorks Home Partners (formerly Greater Frogtown Development Corporation) and the Minnesota Chapter of the US Green Building Council. In 2014, USGBC-MN connected volunteers from the local community, as well as industry experts and manufacturers, to help contribute to the restoration and rehabilitation of two foreclosed homes in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Kraus-Anderson volunteers were part of the team who worked to rehabilitate one of the homes, located at 795 Edmund Ave. The house had been abandoned and repeatedly vandalized, windows broken and stripped of all metals. The yard was being used as a dumping ground. Acting as developer, NeighborWorks Home Partners hired general contractors to perform critical tasks such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing and drywall installation, and USGBC-MN coordinated volunteer groups including the KA group for painting, landscaping, planting rain gardens and building patio furniture.
The volunteers’ efforts are augmented by training and materials provided by industry leaders such as Andersen Windows, which donated high efficiency ENERGY STAR windows; Hirshfield’s, which donated No-VOC paint ; and Wooster Brush Company , which donated professional painting supplies. These and other materials sponsors also provided training to the volunteers in how their materials are used, providing information that the volunteers can apply to their personal home improvement projects. The restored home is Greenstar and Minnesota Sustainable Communities certified.
“The beauty of the program is that it’s designed to offer benefits to all participants,” said KA’s Mike Smoczyk, USGBC-MN board president and a participant on the volunteer crew. “Volunteers receive a supervised team-building experience, with expert-led workshops in sustainable building techniques they can apply to their own home improvements. Sponsors gain exposure for their products. And the neighborhood is enhanced as properties are rehabilitated into sustainable, appealing homes.”
“The Dynamic Green Home program helped us take on complete renovations of two homes built in 1910 and 1915,” said Jill Henricksen, deputy director, NeighborWorks Home Partners.
“With low housing values and dilapidated conditions this becomes a very challenging project. Thanks to USGBC-MN we were able to not only restore these homes back to their original beauty, but upgrade them to healthy, efficient GreenStar certified homes while maintaining affordability for lower income families,” Henricksen said.
“You learn a lot about a company by working with a team of their volunteers on a project like this,” said Stephen Burk, USGBC-MN director of development, and one of the guiding forces for the Dynamic Green Home program.
“We learned that Kraus Anderson volunteers are enthusiastic, team-oriented professionals with an incredible work ethic who genuinely want to make a difference in the community. We were lucky to have such a talented team to help us learn about and make green and sustainable improvements to the home in a neighborhood that really deserves the help,” Burk said.
Plans are in the works for three Dynamic Green Home projects in 2015, including homes in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. As soon as properties are assigned to the developers in February, they will begin the process of organizing the placement of volunteer teams, donated expertise, products and materials, said Burk.
To learn more about supporting or volunteering on the Dynamic Green Home project, please contact Stephen Burk, firstname.lastname@example.org.