Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona (Habitat) helps make home ownership a reality for those who might not qualify for a traditional home loan. The research from the Arizona Housing Alliance and Washington D.C.-based National Low Income Housing Coalition found that another 142,000 affordable rental homes are needed for the state’s low-income population. That’s more houses and apartments than there are in all of Scottsdale. This challenge of providing affordable housing options is additionally challenged by rapidly rising land prices. To address these challenges Habitat has had to think outside of the box and it’s traditional Habitat model. At the same time in Tempe, Arizona a dirt lot, roughly the size of an acre sat vacant over-looking Alegre Park. A small grassy area where neighbors play fetch with their pets, organize soccer games and enjoy picnics under its shady trees. This beautiful property had remained dormant until the City of Tempe put out an RFP for the land.

Originally slated to hold twenty-one two bedroom townhouses, Habitat saw the opportunity to offer something more… Larger models that would accommodate families; families who work in the area but can’t afford to live there as land prices continue to increase. This neighborhood with abundant public transportation, excellent school choice and its close vicinity to a beautiful green space made it an ideal location to build for Habitat families. Families, whose presence will benefit the entire neighborhood and community. So, together the Construction and Land Development departments of Habitat did some brainstorming.

Together along with architect Muffet Maerk, Habitat proposed and made plans for its first ever, three story units. Together the team submitted a proposal to the city of Tempe detailing plans for a family residential development that will include 18 total homes which equates to a density of 16.13 units per acre. The project will include 18 single-family residential homes that will be the Habitat Gemini model with two units sharing a common wall. The homes will be three (3) stories in height or 29 feet; and will include exterior patios and canopies and a two (2) car garage.

“We’re excited to go vertical on this project.” says Habitat President and CEO, Jason Barlow. “Working with local families and wonderful partners in this Tempe neighborhood has helped us think creatively about what affordable housing can look like. We’re grateful to have this project underway.”

These three story units represent new challenges for Habitat. The not-for-profit builder utilizes volunteer labor to complete unskilled tasks. Typically on any given weekend each Habitat home under construction is assisted by a team of 5-10 volunteer leaders, dedicated individuals who commit to managing a build from beginning to end. They manage a group of 15-25 general volunteers, often provided by the home sponsor, most of whom have little to no experience in construction or building.

The first wall signing ceremonies are scheduled for Saturday, January 21st,  2017 and the first six units are estimated for completion by June 30th, 2017. The remaining homes will be completed in stages as funding becomes available. By June 2018, Habitat hopes to have 18 new families living and working in Tempe.