We work to close the affordable housing gap for low-to-moderate income households in order to increase quality of life and keep residents in Green River. Many homes sit vacant and/or need repairs to bring them up to a livable standard. We use a holistic approach to address increase access to homeownership, home repairs, and rental housing.
At the start, Epicenter focused on the immediate housing services that our small team and budget could provide, such as use of our internet, application assistance for social services and housing loans, and connection to housing resources such as local contractors. Early in our practice we met Randy (aka “Bear”), a local resident who wanted to move out of his mobile home. We helped Bear secure an affordable loan he used to purchase land and hire a local contractor who designed and built him a house.
These first steps encouraged us to design and build a house of our own. Still new to the work, we decided to partner with an existing organization that had experience developing new housing in the area: Habitat for Humanity of Castle Country. With their help, we designed, funded, and built a 1,064 sq. ft. house for a local family. Its completion marked a major milestone for Epicenter. The house was also the first Habitat home built in Green River.
Assessment & Planning
As Epicenter matured, we soon discovered the data necessary to quantify the need for housing didn’t exist for Green River. We now gather our own data through surveys, focus-groups, windshield surveys, and more to inform our work. The full studies, many created in partnership with outside expertise and assistance, are linked here:
Fix it First
In response to the housing assessment that found 49% of houses in Green River needed repairs, we developed our Fix It First program. Fix It First helps elderly, disabled, and/or moderate to low-income homeowners improve their home by fixing minor problems before they become major problems. Costs are repaid by the homeowner at a low interest rate and placed back into the revolving loan fund which is used to repair more homes for more families in perpetuity. Along with the loan, Epicenter manages the entire project. Since the program began in 2012, Epicenter has completed 47 home repair projects for Green River residents.
In rural America, affordable housing options are often limited to inefficient mobile homes (“trailers”) which both depreciate in value and incur high ongoing maintenance costs as they deteriorate. To provide an alternative to trailers, we’ve designed the Frontier House, a model to test an affordable and high-performance single-family housing option for our region. Our first iteration is a 708-square-foot house, scaled to the city’s minimum house size while meeting the needs of those living in trailers. To improve upon Frontier House 1.0, were observing its performance to inform future iterations which could include duplex and accessory dwelling designs.
Moving forward, Epicenter has a three-pronged approach to developing housing in Green River: expanding Fix It First, developing multifamily rental units, and creating clear pathways to homeownership.
With Fix It First expanding into larger projects, Epicenter will have a greater impact, including rehabilitation of the nearly 15% of housing that currently sits vacant in Green River; these homes can become ready to purchase or rent for low-to-moderate income residents.
Epicenter is currently in pre-development of a multifamily housing initiative. We have determined the appropriate number of rental units, target rent, amenities needed, and are finalizing site selection and our strategy, such as scatter-site, townhomes, renovations, and apartments.
With a staggering 28% of homes in Green River being trailers, Epicenter is determined to provide clear pathways for residents to move out of unstable conditions and into asset-building homeownership. We are developing the Frontier House line and actively seeking new partnerships with other nearby single-family housing developers.
As a part of this ongoing work, we are honored to host an Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellow for two years starting in January 2019. Through this partnership with Enterprise Community Partners, we will analyze possible approaches and an implementation plan for housing that is not only applicable to Green River, but also other small communities in the Intermountain West. The Rose Fellow will be a key part of planning, designing, and developing new housing units, Epicenter’s most ambitious housing effort to date.