Grant gives Greenhouse Village Project money to build more homes

By Keenan Willard

Rockbridge County announced on Sept. 22 that it received almost a half-million dollar grant from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development. Now, the county can continue construction on the Greenhouse Village Project, a community of affordable homes that the county is developing along with Habitat for Humanity.

The project harks back to 2007, when the Great Recession caused a real estate developer to back out of a plan to construct a neighborhood on a lot off of Greenhouse Road just outside of Lexington. The county had already committed to a bond that required it to build roads and infrastructure for the new development. After teaming up with Habitat for Humanity, the Greenhouse Village Project was born.

Starting in 2010, the infrastructure installed by the county in Phase 1 of the project has supported the construction of 15 affordable homes. The new $476,693 grant will be used to finance the infrastructure necessary to build 12 additional homes in Phase 2 of the project.

“This has just been a great project,” said Sam Crickenberger, an employee of the Rockbridge County Community Development Office. “It involves so many people, even the high school.”

Nearby Rockbridge High School has had a hand in the development of the project. The school’s construction trades program has built one new home per year. The home is then craned to the project site.

The process to apply for a home in the Greenhouse Village Project is rigorous, with prospective residents having to put in 200 hours per person of sweat-equity hours toward the construction of their home. These hours include actual hours spent building their home, along with the successful completion of a credit counseling course, qualification for a loan and meeting certain income criteria.

Mac and Olivia Smiley, a couple who began work on their sweat-equity hours in May and are in the process of constructing the latest house in the project, hope to have completed their hours and moved in to their home by early January of next year.

“For us, this project means a livable future,” Mac Smiley said. “Nothing starts out a family quite like being able to start a home. This is going to be a childhood home.”

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The map of the houses of the Greenhouse Village Project.