In today’s disposable society, we don’t expect anything to last. From our daily paper coffee cup to the annual iPod upgrade, we do not seek goods with permanence. This outlook has permeated the market for housing, resulting in an epidemic of teardown in residential communities. Blighted homes in economically depressed neighborhoods; moderately sized 1950s ranches in a suddenly trendy area; communities that lie in the path of commercial or transportation development – in all of these situations it has become common practice to demolish what has become functionally obsolete and haul it to the landfill.
The greenest house is the one that is already built – this is the foundation of the Builders of Hope model. We have built our process around this existing framework, capturing the top quality materials and craftsmanship of yesterday’s single family home construction and retrofitting it with modern technology, open floor plans and energy efficiencies to create a home for today’s lifestyle. We have found that, contrary to popular opinion, rehabilitation – even Extreme Green Rehabilitation – can be done affordably, quickly and sustainably. Most importantly, the model is replicable throughout the country.
The national teardown epidemic has expanded in recent years to encompass the aging stock of 1970s-era public housing developments, high rises and large multifamily complexes. While they have failed as experiments in affordable housing, they provide a perfect opportunity for a creative, responsible solution to both the issues of affordable housing and sustainable rebuilding.
As the leading advocates, builders and administrators of affordable housing throughout the nation, it is the obligation of NHC members to accept the challenge of retaining and increasing the quantity of available stock, while we take a serious look at the quality. There is another way, a more responsible method for addressing aged housing on a larger scale to ensure we meet the changing needs of the U.S. population – without also taxing our environmental resources. It is our task to change the prevailing mindset in our disposable society into one that first asks “Why Demolish?”
Nancy Murray is the CEO of NHC Member Partner Builders of Hope, Inc.
It is important to note that Builders of Hope received the NHC 2009 "Pioneering Housing Strategies" Award for its work in helping to close the gap between the availability and the need for safe, affordable and environmentally-friendly urban housing solutions in the Raleigh, NC, area.