Strengthening Neighborhoods in Greenville, South Carolina­

Habitat partners with new homeowner on the front porch

On June 1st, 2023, Habitat for Humanity Greenville (HFHGC) dedicated their seventh home at Heritage Hills development in the neighborhood of Nicholtown. The Heritage Hills Development is a former Hope VI subdivision of which the City of Greenville did not complete development. HFHGC plans to build 29 homes over the next couple of years to strengthen this historically African American neighborhood southeast of downtown Greenville. This is the first of six Rural Studio prototype homes to be completed in the neighborhood, with the other five expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

Group raising wood-framed wall on concrete foundation

HFHGC has historically offered three- and four-bedroom homes but recognized that four adjacent parcels could be subdivided to accommodate five smaller prototypes. In planning conversations, Rural Studio offered several two-bedroom prototypes, of which HFHGC selected Sylvia’s two-bedroom, two-bath model (2/2). The design is well-suited to the narrow sites (with parking at the rear) because the back porch, which can be screened, serves as an informal entry. This prototype has expanded the affiliate’s client base; for the first time, two single individuals have qualified to purchase homes through the affiliate. The accessibility of the prototype will also allow an owner with limited mobility to age in place.

As the Sylvia 2/2 House prototype was new to the affiliate, HFHGC elected to proceed with one house before moving forward with all six; this process allowed the procurement and construction teams to learn the nuances of a new prototype. Construction of the first house allowed the teams to adjust wall alignments, insulation material, and window and door types in subsequent iterations. Because the high-efficiency mechanical system differs from the typical conventional systems specified for the affiliate’s larger houses, this prototype prompted the affiliate to seek out a new mechanical contractor with more competitive pricing.

HFHGC has adapted the drawing sets to reflect their palette of finishes and standard details, which will streamline production for their volunteers and incorporate the finish offerings typically offered to their partner families. Because the affiliate typically builds to ENERGY STAR, beyond-code aspects of rigorous air sealing and high-efficiency equipment are familiar.

Financial Stack

Site work and infrastructure were funded through grants and a capital campaign, Building New Communities One Neighborhood at a Time, that raised approximately $2M. Two-thirds of the construction budget for each individual home is sponsored by organizations or through fundraising, with grants and profits from ReStore sales covering the remaining third. The mortgage portfolio also brings in funding through a combination of mortgages currently serviced and those sold to other lenders after origination. HFHGC received funds for this first home from their build partner, BMW Group Manufacturing, based out of Spartanburg, SC. Rural Studio will continue to work with HFHGC to explore their interest in third-party lending.

Energy Efficient Homes

HFHGC is pursuing ENERGY STAR, Indoor airPLUS, and WaterSense certifications; they have a longstanding relationship with a third-party evaluator to ensure construction meets the standards. Financial incentives do not exist to justify pursuit of FORTIFIED. HFHGC has applied learning from Rural Studo’s technical assistance to their three- and four-bedroom home designs, yielding better air tightness results and lower HERS scores. Based on the research Rural Studio shared regarding the energy savings possible with hybrid heat pump water heaters, HFHGC has committed to installing them in all future houses and has modified their standard specifications accordingly.

Housing Access

Homeowners for the first five homes have been selected and are working to complete their 250 sweat equity hours. HFHGC is working with single homeowners for the first time, the addition of a smaller two-bedroom house to the Heritage Hills neighborhood has proved ideal. The prototype is also designed with accessibility in mind and can accommodate the limited mobility of one of these buyers. Since the sites are configured to offer parking at the back, a ramp will be added to the back porch.

Press Links:

Greenville Journal: Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Habitat for Humanity of Greenville County complete Habitat Arena Build” June 18, 2023

Fox Carolina: Habitat Greenville Builds a Home at the Well” June 13, 2023

Fox Carolina: Greenville Habitat for Humanity celebrates new home” June 1, 2023