On Monday, November 7th, the tiny city of Millersburg in rural Bourbon County, Kentucky made history when construction began on the first house to be constructed there in nearly two decades. The structure will be the first ready-for-mass-production, net zero, carbon neutral affordable home in the U.S. This incredible build was made possible by a partnership between Community Ventures, a Lexington-based non-profit focused in part on helping low-income and underserved populations increase income and build assets through small business and home ownership and Baya Build, a Florida company currently setting the bar for high-quality, sustainable and affordable housing. Baya Build’s cutting-edge system allows for “dry-enveloping” of their houses in a single day.
More importantly for the majority of Community Ventures’ target clients in the states it serves, these homes may provide their optimum path to homeownership and be their key to wealth building, as home equity often becomes the largest single asset held by most Americans. “In this country it is very hard to buy a home right now, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer,” Community Ventures’ CEO Kevin Smith explained. “The cost of building a home, along with rising interest rates and energy costs is making it difficult. It is driving housing costs up beyond what most people can afford. For typical families, homeownership is the way that generational wealth is built and this innovative and more affordable approach will enable more people to achieve that dream.”
“In Millersburg, we are demonstrating technology and innovation and showing how it can be used to reach affordable housing needs and goals,” notes James Casper, Founder and CEO of Baya Build. “What we have designed is a net zero-ready, carbon-neutral affordable house. It is the first commercial grade affordable structure that we could find in the U.S. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy is using it as a case study. And, we can manufacture it in a commercial capacity—we can make a thousand, we can make 10,000 or we can make a million of them. It’s not a one-of-a-kind solution. And we can still keep it affordable—that is the innovation.”
Speaking to the crowd gathered to watch the build, Kentucky Congressman Andy Barr remarked “Community Ventures’ partnership with Baya Build is showing us what the potential is for affordable, energy efficient housing. …It is an example of how to work to better communities. In my service on the House Financial Services Committee, we have jurisdiction over the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s CDFI Fund, and I get a chance to report back to my colleagues in Washington. When they say ‘What does this program really yield? What do CDFIs contribute to their communities?’ I can give concrete examples like Mustard Seed Hill and what I am seeing here today. …The community development strategies that Community Ventures has deployed in Millersburg are helping transform this community.”
Due to the speed with which these ‘kit’ homes can be constructed, Brenda Weaver, President of Housing and Lending for Community Ventures sees them as a possible answer to the re-construction problems faced by victims of last year’s Western Kentucky tornados and the recent flooding in Eastern Kentucky, both areas where Community Ventures has been active.
“Because these have been used in disaster areas in the past, these (Baya Build) units are all structured in such a way that they can withstand incredibly high winds and earthquakes,” Weaver said. “This is a very sturdy, solid type construction. And there is virtually no waste in this process—everything is pre-measured and pre-cut according to the plans that have been provided to Baya Build, and it was shipped to Millersburg on trucks to be assembled on site. Everything comes ready to unload from the truck just as it goes up—pre-cut and labeled. When a house like this is finished, everything left over from construction should fit in one household size garbage bag.”
Community Ventures believes that in the future this partnership with Baya Build will allow extremely energy efficient, affordable homes to be built faster and less expensively, making them more attainable for lower-income or first-time home buyers in the urban and rural areas—like Millersburg—where Community Ventures is working to revitalize communities.