Like most everyone, we remember exactly where we were on Friday 13, March 2020, the day of the nationwide shutdown. The Front Porch team was on a field trip to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in the 2020 Tennessee Housing Conference and catch up with our friends from USDA, Fahe, Hope Enterprise Partners, Mountain T.O.P., and Eastern 8. In addition, we connected with Fannie Mae’s Disaster Recovery Group, who were traveling to town to perform a damage assessment following the recent tornado that tore through intown neighborhoods just the week prior. We also participated in working meetings with our partners from Affordable Housing Resources, who are building four Rural Studio 20K Houses on Wharf Avenue in Nashville’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood in collaboration with NeighborWorks and Regions Bank. Little did we know this would be our last face-to-face meeting with any of our partners for over four months.
Working directly with the City of Nashville’s innovative zoning policy that allows for the development of a “Horizontal Property Regime“ (HPR), Affordable Housing Resources received tentative approval to build two individually-owned, single-family units on each lot, thus allowing for a denser utilization and lower land cost per unit. Though slowed a bit by the shutdown and transition to remote working, Affordable Housing Resources continued to work in the intervening summer months to successfully move the Wharf Avenue project forward through zoning, permitting, and approvals.
Fast forward to August, and just as Rural Studio is getting students back to Newbern and beginning to open our community and housing projects back up in Hale County, the Front Porch team has also been given approval to get back on the road for essential research travel. And just in time, too, because we are excited to say that Affordable Housing Resources broke ground on the Wharf Avenue Project in late July! Since that time, the team has made two site visits to Nashville, our first face-to-face visits since March. Under the oversight of Barbara Harper Latimer, owner of Honeybee Builders, the project continues to progress quickly, with two-and-a-half of the first four houses framed.
It’s been a long road, and we have a way to go still, but we are extremely fortunate to have persistent partners like Affordable Housing Resources seeing the project forward in this very dynamic time. We are excited to finally have new houses coming out of the ground in Nashville, and we look forward to keeping you updated on our progress there, as well as in our other locations around the Southeast.