A Group of Volunteers Organize
CHP was founded in 1975 by two concerned citizen activists—Reverend Woody Leach and Emily Stuart—who organized volunteer college students and faculty in Blacksburg, Va., to perform minor home repairs for low-wealth families living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Known as Project Home Repair, the group soon added weatherization services, which were delivered by a small team of professional staff.
Virginia Mountain Housing Is Born
As the complexity of needed home repairs grew, the company’s board of directors renamed the enterprise Virginia Mountain Housing, Inc. and received a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) designation from the IRS. It was during this time that current Chief Executive Officer Janaka Casper began his career with the organization that would eventually become known as Community Housing Partners.
In the 1980s, the company continued to grow, adding rental housing preservation, Class-A general contracting, property management, and homeownership and realty programs. Virginia Mountain Housing also made the decision to expand its services outside of the New River Valley, launching an indoor plumbing initiative and providing contract weatherization services to other nonprofit organizations—making it the state's largest provider of weatherization services.
To reflect a more geographically diverse service area, the company changed its name to VMH, Inc. in the 1990s. It went on to purchase several multifamily rental communities in Florida; establish Tekoa, Inc., a residential treatment center and school for at-risk youth; institute a resident services program to help meet the needs of its rental property tenants; and found the New River Center for Energy Research and Training (NRCERT) to provide both training and research in residential energy conservation techniques, home performance testing, as well as heating and cooling equipment diagnostics, repair, and replacement.
Community Housing Partners Is Established
The 2000s ushered in more change, when the board and staff decided to change the company’s name to Community Housing Partners (CHP) to more accurately represent the importance of collaboration in achieving success. New lines of business were added as well, including a subsidiary community development financial institution (CDFI) named New Enterprises Fund to promote economic development in the New River Valley. Later, this entity was spun off into a completely separate company and renamed Virginia Community Capital, which continues to focus on markets underserved by traditional capital sources. In 2002, the CHP Design Studio was established to provide architectural services to CHP and external, like-minded clients. This award-winning, full-service design firm was nationally recognized for high-performance, sustainable design throughout its 15 years of service.
In 2003, CHP launched an environmentally-focused initiative called Down to Earth, which outlined the organization's on-going commitment to principles of sustainability and set the tone for green programs that would follow within the organization and across the industry. That same year, CHP became a chartered member organization of NEIGHBORWORKS AMERICA, a nonprofit organization that supports community development across the country.
CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training Center (formerly NRCERT) expanded its scope of service when it opened in 2010 its new 12,500-square-foot training facility in Christiansburg to provide hands-on energy-efficiency training to participants from all over the world.
CHP now has more than 350 employees across a six-state footprint. In 2015 alone, the company and its hundreds of private and public partners provided rental housing to over 13,000 people; designed, built, or rehabbed 6,572 homes; trained 878 people in energy conservation; weatherized 6,063 homes; prepared over 400 individuals for homeownership; and invested $52 million in community development.