By Teddy Jacobsen
Rockbridge Area Habitat for Humanity plans to move more residents into Greenhouse Village, its affordable housing neighborhood in Lexington, by the beginning of June.
The local nonprofit organization builds and fixes houses in Rockbridge County. Habitat Executive Director Lynne Johnson said a new family moved into Greenhouse Village at the beginning of the year.
She said two more houses are almost done, and two more families will move in.
Greenhouse Village is located across from the Virginia Horse Center on Village Way. Johnson said there will be 37 homes in the neighborhood when the project is completed, which is expected to be by the end of 2024.
Habitat has a unique requirement for its Greenhouse Village residents. Johnson said families moving into a Greenhouse Village home must spend at least 200 hours helping build the houses in the neighborhood.
“It means you have a little bit of skin in the game,” Johnson said. “You’re more committed to something you’ve built yourself, which is a feeling that will continue long after every house is built.”
Greenhouse Village resident Patlean Aatts said she has put in more than 200 hours since moving into her home last April. She said she has helped build several houses in the neighborhood, including her own.
“I just felt the need to keep going because I was learning so much about how my house is structured and so much about the other families in the neighborhood,” she said.
Aatts and her son moved to Virginia from Jamaica last year. She said finding a home in Greenhouse Village has made the transition easier because the community spends time getting to know one another through their work together on the houses.
She also said she feels comfortable handling the responsibility of owning a house because she helped install nearly every appliance and many other fixtures in her house.
“An example is my sink,” Aatts said. “If my sink breaks or something goes wrong, I will know how to fix it.”
Habitat for Humanity meets housing need for local families
Fewer Virginians can afford to buy a home, according to Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. From 2018 to 2021, the median home sales price in Virginia rose from $211,000 to $270,000.
Johnson said most people who apply to live in Greenhouse Village are at about the 60th percentile of the average median income. The average median income in Rockbridge County is around $57,000, according to the United States Census Bureau. She said the range Habitat accepts can range from the 50th to 80th percentile.
Johnson said Habitat allows families to rent the properties in some cases if they are in the process of closing on their home.
“Even if the process is not totally over, we like to get the residents in their homes as soon as possible,” she said.
More development on the horizon
Last July, the Central Shenandoah Planning District organization gave a $270,000 grant to Habitat to help with production costs.
The nonprofit organization also bought land for seven new houses at the end of last summer along U.S. Route 11 near the Lexington Prescription Center.
Johnson said development at the new site will start after Greenhouse Village is complete.
Johnson said nine families are waiting to move into Greenhouse Village as construction on houses in the neighborhood continues.
“If I had a magic wand to immediately build every house, I would,” Aatts said. “That way people can move in right now and have the same experience I’ve had.”