Academics and Affordable Housing Advocates Join Forces

Habitat for Humanity and Ball State University

Habitat for Humanity of Greater Muncie (Habitat), partnering with MutualBank, planned to apply for a $15,000 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grant in 2012 to fund the rehab of a home for a single mother and her son, but the organization needed assistance in preparing the application. “It was really the FHLBI’s application process that set in motion the collaboration with Ball State,” explained Kelli Kern, Resource Development Director. “We needed help with understanding some of the green building criteria for the AHP application, so we called on Janet Fick at the university to help us.” Fick, a construction management professor at Ball State who is also LEED certified and a licensed architect, was happy to consult with Habitat on the project.

Building on this initial collaboration, Jason Haney, Field Operations Manager for Habitat, realized that a partnership with Habitat would create an excellent opportunity for an “immersive learning” course for Ball State students and approached Fick with the idea. Funded with various grants, immersive learning courses bring together students from several disciplines to create learning experiences that allow students to use their skills in real-world situations.

Students enrolled in Fick’s course for the spring 2013 semester were studying interior design, architecture, historic preservation and construction management. They gathered either in a campus classroom or at one of the four project homes.

Kirstin Payer, an interior design student, enjoyed the class because of getting to work with people in other fields. For a home in nearby Yorktown, Payer worked on re-designing the kitchen, selecting cabinets, flooring, hardware, and countertops, in addition to drawing layouts to see how to make the best use of the small space. Students had access to Habitat’s suppliers to accurately estimate costs.

Haney said that both Habitat and Ball State benefit from their partnership. “Analyzing a home to rehab is time consuming,”explained Haney. “Having access to students who can handle the planning and estimating is very helpful. Another benefit is that this partnership has opened the door for internships with Habitat.”

Fick added that the partnership also teaches students about money and budgets. Some students’ designs were creative but a bit too “pie-in-the-sky” for Habitat’s budget. She allowed them to develop the plans anyway to present to Habitat even though she knew the designs would not meet Habitat’s standards. “It’s all part of the learning process,” said Fick. “Sometimes students get to work directly with the partner family, which also provides a key learning experience.”

Habitat has applied for an AHP grant in partnership with FHLBI member MutualBank to help fund the renovations. A family has already been selected for the Yorktown home.

Mosaic and the University of Notre Dame

An idea first conceived of three years ago to design a group home in Elkhart, Indiana is coming to fruition thanks to a partnership between Mosaic in Northern Indiana - a faith-based organization serving people with intellectual disabilities - and architecture students from the University of Notre Dame.

The City of Elkhart had already collaborated with architecture students at Notre Dame through its Center for Building Communities to develop a master plan for the City, so when Mosaic came calling for design assistance for the group home, the partnership was a natural fit. Mosaic selected the property on which to build the group home based on a list of properties Elkhart had already slated for redevelopment. Mosaic ultimately chose a corner lot in a downtown historic district to enable clients to interact with the community.

Designing a group home that best fit the needs of Mosaic’s clients became both a learning and challenging experience. At the outset, the architecture students designed a much larger home than Mosaic had planned and budgeted for, but rather than throw out the design and begin again, Robert Franco, Mosaic’s Director of Construction and Facilities, challenged them to achieve the same goal in a different way by asking them, for instance, to decide which features were most important and what could be completed on a smaller scale.

Unfortunately, the project was delayed when the State of Indiana began discussions about changing the group home model and how non-profits are reimbursed. Once those issues were resolved, Mosaic again focused on building the group home and happily did not have to start from scratch. The students who had originally designed the home had graduated, but their professors became liaisons to new architecture students. A modified design was submitted to an architectural firm for final modifications, and Mosaic at last broke ground on the home in June 2013 with an anticipated completion date of early 2014.

The four-bedroom group home features an open floor plan to accommodate residents’ accessibility needs. “Mosaic’s mission in this project is to provide quality housing that gives individuals independence and a place to learn practical skills,” said Franco. “For example, the kitchen is arranged in such a way that we can teach residents skills on site.”

Green building initiatives were incorporated where possible, including flooring and drywall made of recycled materials. Franco added that connecting with the students was a great experience, but he was most impressed by how they responded once they knew about Mosaic’s mission. The partnership was so successful, he stated, that the team is working on another group home planned for Terre Haute, Indiana.

FHLBI member 1st Source Bank was awarded an AHP grant of $500,000 to assist Mosaic Housing of Elkhart with the project.