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CHP Brings Accessible Living to Albemarle County Couple

Christiansburg, Va. – Rose Byrne and her soul mate, Norman Ourada -- two of an estimated 1,491,965 Virginians with disabilities -- were struggling with mounting medical bills and the difficulties of living in traditional housing when the design and construction teams at Community Housing Partners (CHP) were asked to help.

The call for assistance had come from Bill Fuller, senior community housing officer with the Virginia Housing Development Authority’s (VHDA) REACH (Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing) Virginia program, which helps address the need for affordable, accessible housing options that promote independence and dignity for people with disabilities.

“Rose had very demanding medical needs and Norman, her soul mate and caretaker was himself disabled. They wanted to build a new home that would meet their physical needs, but their money and borrowing power were dwindling. We knew something had to be done to provide them with functional and affordable housing before they were separated and/or institutionalized. I contacted CHP because they are trustworthy, competent and share the same passion and commitment to service,” explained Fuller. “The physical requirements of the elderly couple and challenges presented by the geography of the proposed site made this a difficult proposition, but I knew through experience that if any company could successfully undertake this challenge and bring it to a successful conclusion it would be CHP.”

Upon hearing about the couple’s plight, CHP’s Vice President of Architecture, Colin Arnold, did not hesitate to offer his studio’s design assistance free of cost. “We had recently committed ourselves through Public Architecture’s The 1% program to donate one percent of our time each year to help those with special design needs who might not otherwise be able to engage a professional architect,” said Arnold. “This project seemed to be the perfect way to launch this initiative within our company.”

The design team set to work, custom designing a 1,027-square-foot home to be built at cost by CHP’s construction division in Albemarle County. “We worked very closely with Norman and Rose throughout the design process, addressing their individual needs while remaining cognizant of cost,” stated Joshua Galloway, project manager with CHP.

The architects also collaborated on all stages of the project with CHP’s in-house construction department, allowing the design-build team to adjust the project in real time to meet both building and owner needs. “We faced some major challenges -- including a steep, narrow, rocky lot that was difficult to access -- but working together with the designers enabled us to minimize changes and maximize the project’s value,” said CHP Vice President of Construction Todd Peacock.

According to Fuller, CHP successfully navigated any hurdles that came along. “At every turn, CHP showed compassion, concern, and professionalism in overcoming each challenge.”

The resulting home has accessible bathrooms, extra-wide hallways and a zero-step entry to accommodate a wheelchair, while also providing Byrne (who is frequently bed-bound) with views of the surrounding mountains. In addition, the house was designed to ENERGY STAR® standards, making the home more energy efficient and therefore less expensive to heat and cool.

“Norman and Rose are a perfect example of why affordable housing is so important in Virginia, in this country, and in the world,” Fuller said. “Everyone deserves to live in a safe, sustainable and reasonably-priced environment. But it is the most frail and vulnerable among us that suffer when this type of housing is not available. Our community would have been justified under the current value system to place Rose in a nursing home at exorbitant costs to the citizens and unthinkable sadness for both Rose and Norman. But by having compassionate organizations like CHP and VHDA, the outcome was much different -- much more humane -- and with results that greatly improved the quality of life for Norman and Rose.”

About The 1%:
The 1%, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, is a program of Public Architecture that connects nonprofits with architecture and design firms willing to give of their time pro bono. Public Architecture acts as a catalyst for public discourse through education, advocacy, and the design of public spaces and amenities.
Launched by Public Architecture in 2005 with the support of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, The 1% is a first-of-its-kind effort to encourage pro bono service within the architecture and design professions. To learn more, go to www.theonepercent.org.

About Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA):

Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) is a self-supporting, not-for-profit organization created by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1972 to help Virginians attain quality, affordable housing. VHDA provides mortgages, primarily for first-time homebuyers and developers of quality rental housing. The organization raises money in the capital markets to fund its loans. It also teaches free homeownership classes and helps people with disabilities and the elderly make their homes more livable. VHDA works with lenders, developers, local governments, community service organizations and others to help put quality housing within the reach of every Virginian. Since its founding, VHDA has committed financing for more than 174,500 single family homes and 135,000 multifamily units. Visit VHDA’s website at www.vhda.com.