The Front Porch Initiative is built on partnerships. Rural Studio is continually focused on working with partner organizations to advance research in the areas of policy and product development. There are three distinct partnership avenues in which we work. First, we partner with housing providers and builders to extend the reach of the Front Porch Initiative home products. Second, we maintain a coalition of national partners with expertise in all sectors of housing procurement. And, lastly, we leverage institutional support to advance research and development in the field of housing affordability.
Builders & Housing Providers (Field Test Partners)
Rural Studio is working with an initial cohort of established builders and housing providers who are interested in building Front Porch Initiative homes within their existing service area(s). This first round of Field Test Partners will receive the design and instructional documents needed to construct the home, or homes, of their choice from our product line of homes. Rural Studio will also provide the partners with technical assistance before, during, and after construction. While Front Porch Initiative pilot projects will utilize the applied research of Auburn University Rural Studio students, Field Test Partners will not work directly with our students on the design and construction of homes. Instead, partners will harness the applied research undertaken by Auburn University students to expand the impact of the work beyond Rural Studio’s service area.
In addition to our current partners, Rural Studio is looking for our next round of Field Test Partners (experienced builders or housing providers) to implement Front Porch Initiative pilot projects. Each partner will build the home(s) utilizing their established delivery method. For example, a Habitat for Humanity affiliate might act as the general contractor on a project and build the home using predominately unskilled volunteer labor. We are looking to partner with organizations that have:
- Organizational capacity & resiliency. Partners will be expected to have a demonstrable portfolio of work in single-family home creation. These pilot projects are intended as a tool for helping refine design communication for the home products and, therefore, we expect unforeseen challenges will need to addressed during the process. We are looking for partners who have the flexibility and resiliency to work with us to address and overcome those challenges as well as provide regular feedback through the course of the project.
- Community need. The Front Porch Initiative has designs for 1- and 2-bedroom homes in the under $100,000 price range. Rural Studio would like to work with partners whose clients and communities could benefit from our products.
- Ability to construct the homes without design modifications. The homes have been designed to optimize climactic performance in the mixed-humid climate of West Alabama as well as the area’s social and cultural environment. We will work with our field test partners to respond to local conditions with a limited range of vetted options for foundation type, exterior cladding, and other modifications that do not affect the performance of the home. We are looking for partners who are interested in building the homes as-designed.
- Ability to construct the home without policy modifications. Organizations should consult local codes, policies, and ordinances to determine wither the pilot project can be completed under current regulations. For example, zoning codes must allow for the construction of smaller homes (approximately 500 square feet for 1-bedroom homes and 950 square feet for 2-bedroom homes) or have an avenue through which the homes can be constructed (as ADUs, in cottage court development, etc.)
- Ability to construct the pilot project within a given timeframe. Construction will need to be managed by the builder or housing provider. Rural Studio will not be able to provide labor or construction management on these pilot projects.
We would like to understand which aspects of the project are universal and what is specific across different areas and delivery methods. We are seeking partners who are working across the spectrum of delivery methods from charity, to subsidized or self-help, to for-profit ventures, and everything else in between.
Subject Matter Experts
In order to address the challenges of equitable housing access, we must work across the entire ecosystem of home procurement. This ecosystem includes the ‘first cost’ areas of income, credit, primary and secondary mortgage markets, zoning, permitting, and project controls as well as the ‘second cost’ areas of home insurance, energy consumption and maintenance requirements. Along with a national coalition of partners, we are investigating a holistic approach to housing affordability that addresses the systemic issues and financial impact of energy performance, building resilience, healthcare outcomes, and local workforce development. Learn more about our Subject Matter Experts below.
Subject Matter Experts
Fannie MaeHealthy Building NetworkHousing Assistance Council (HAC)Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS)Joint Center for Housing Students of Harvard UniversityKaiser PermanenteNational Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS)US Department of Agriculture (USDA)US Department of Energy (DOE)US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)Wells Fargo
A number of Rural Studio’s partners materially support our research through contracts, grants, philanthropy and direct, in-kind support. This support is critical to sustaining applied research and development of the products, partnerships, and policies that form the Front Porch Initiative. Learn more about our Institutional Support below.
Our partners currently include:
Fannie Mae is supporting the work of the Rural Studio Front Porch Initiative to increase the inventory of titled, real property single-family home solutions targeted both at the needs and challenges relative to substandard housing found in persistently impoverished rural communities, as well as in areas facing a short supply of workforce housing.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)
USDA Rural Development is working to increase the ability of their financing programs to be harnessed for programs such as the Front Porch Initiative. To facilitate pilot projects, they have detailed Meghan Walsh, a Senior Architect with USDA Rural Development, to the initiative.
The Wells Fargo Housing Foundation is supporting Rural Studio’s applied research of building homes in our 5-county service area in the Black Belt region of West Alabama. Through their African American lending initiative, they are particularly focused on increasing African American homeownership.
Through the Presidential Award for Interdisciplinary Research (PAIR), Auburn University is building the internal capacity of the Front Porch Initiative to form a national coalition focused on housing affordability. With a team including representatives from Auburn’s College of Architecture, Design and Construction as well as the College of Liberal Arts, the PAIR focuses on development of a communications platform and related supporting documentation.