CHP Begins Fortieth Year of Service
“I would have no place to go if it were not for CHP,” said Linden Green Apartments resident Kim Hosey. “There’s a huge need for housing and it is important for people like myself to not only have a place that they can afford to live in, but also a place they are proud to live in.”
Hosey, who has lived at Linden Green Apartments in Christiansburg, Va., for five years, is just one of over 310,000 people that CHP has helped with a healthy, affordable place to call home since the organization’s inception 40 years ago—an anniversary milestone that CHP will be recognizing throughout 2015.
“CHP has been able to achieve extraordinary things over the course of our 40 years of service, none of which could have been done without the support of our valuable partners and the exceptional work of our dedicated staff,” said CHP President and CEO Janaka Casper.
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. As the complexity of the needed 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 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.
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. Additionally, CHP Design Studio was established to provide architectural services to CHP and external, like-minded clients.
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 is now a 400-employee organization with a footprint across seven states in the southeast. In 2013 alone, the company and its 700 private and public partners invested $53 million in real estate development projects, provided rental housing to over 15,000 people, made 2,300 homes more energy efficient, and prepared almost 2,000 individuals for homeownership.
CHP continues to evolve with ambition and responsibility, measuring it success by more than just an economic return on investment. The organization evaluates its achievements not only by traditional financial performance but also by its impact on the broader economy, the environment, and the communities it serves. This “triple-bottom-line” concept gauges CHP’s impact and informs its strategic planning in a broader context that incorporates people, profit, and planet.
“From our original mission to provide families in need with simple home repairs to our current efforts to revitalize communities and be responsible stewards of our environment, our work is still rooted in the founding principle that everyone needs and deserves a decent home,” remarked Casper. “Unfortunately, the demand for affordable housing in our nation continues to grow at an alarming rate. As our resident Kim Hosey expressed, home matters now more than ever. That is what drives us and our partners to provide high-quality, sustainable housing opportunities to as many individuals and families as possible. We will continue our work until there are healthy, sustainable communities for everyone.”