CHP's Casper Celebrates Forty Years with the Organization
Janaka Casper, President and CEO of CHP, celebrated 40 years with the organization in July, marking an impressive career dedicated to affordable housing and community development in Virginia. It is Janaka’s long-standing commitment to service that has enabled CHP to grow from its roots as a volunteer organization serving housing needs in rural Appalachia, into a multi-state community development corporation. Headquartered in Christiansburg, Va., CHP is recognized nationally for its capabilities and commitment to innovation and continuous operational improvement. Although CHP’s footprint has greatly expanded over four decades, Janaka continues to ensure that its mission remains focused on the creation of homes and communities that are healthy, sustainable, and affordable.
To make certain innovation and quality are prioritized in every aspect of the community development process, Janaka has worked to create a unique non-profit that provides integrated service delivery including development, architectural design, construction, energy contracting and training, asset management, property management, realty and homeownership, and comprehensive resident services. By working with public and private partners to incorporate all of these key activities into CHP’s holistic approach to community development, Janaka has held strong to his personal and organizational goal to create a “triple bottom line” impact that encourages community revitalization, fosters financial stability for its residents, and promote a healthier planet for future generations.
CHP was founded in 1975 by two citizen activists who organized volunteer college students and faculty in Blacksburg, VA to perform minor home repairs for low-income families living in unsafe or unhealthy conditions. Janaka began working as a volunteer coordinator for this group, known as Project Home Repair in 1976. Soon afterwards, Project Home Repair began providing federally-funded weatherization services which allowed them to hire a small number of professional staff. 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. In 1982, Janaka was appointed Executive Director of the company that would eventually become known as Community Housing Partners.
In the 1980s, under Janaka’s executive leadership, the organization began providing 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 in the 1990s to VMH, Inc. Under Casper’s helm, VMH went on to purchase several multifamily rental communities in Florida; establish Tekoa, Inc., a residential treatment center and school for at-risk youth (and of one of the first LEED certified buildings in Southwest Virginia that was designed and built by CHP); and found the New River Center for Energy Research and Training to provide both training and research in residential energy conservation.
Janaka ushered in more change in the 2000’s, 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. Inspired by Janaka’s commitment to resource conservation, CHP launched an environmentally-focused initiative in 2003 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.
Today CHP is a social enterprise with nearly 400 employees who work with private and public partners to design, preserve, construct, manage, and sell award-winning homes throughout the eastern United States. Janaka has guided the evolution of CHP’s mission to include a focus on sustainable, environmentally-responsible development as outlined in CHP’s current Strategic Plan goals:
• Social: Improve the quality of life for all of our stakeholders by creating and preserving healthy, sustainable communities.
• Environmental: Protect and enhance the environment by reducing the environmental impact of our operations, products and practices.
• Economic: Invest in individual, community, and organizational financial well-being by pursuing and deploying resources to create economically viable communities.
Commitment to Conservation
As evidenced by CHP's numerous award-winning "green" housing developments, Janaka has always had an unwavering commitment to environmental sustainability and energy conversation in the built environment, and he expects nothing less from his staff. He spearheaded CHP’s early involvement in the LEED, Energy Star, and EarthCraft Virginia programs, and now CHP has developed or had a role in the development of over 30 EarthCraft-certified multifamily communities for over 1,500 units of affordable housing across Virginia. It has incorporated EarthCraft standards into its specifications and work descriptions for rehab projects, a strategy that has been recognized by Viridiant (formerly EarthCraft Virginia) and made available to other architectural firms.
Always striving for improvement, Janaka recognized that greening CHP’s real estate developments did not ensure sustainability unless systems were in place to attend to their on-going maintenance and preservation needs. Consequently, CHP created online educational courses that focus on environmentally-responsible property management education and training for CHP staff and companies across the country. As a result, CHP has become a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Affordable Preservation (OAHP)-recognized Green Property Management Trainer.
Although sustainable real estate development and management are key lines of business for CHP, Janaka has never forgotten that CHP’s roots are in energy efficiency improvements and helping low-income households lower their energy costs so that their incomes can more adequately cover other needed essentials. Under Janaka’s leadership, CHP has a thriving CHP Energy Solutions division with activities that include implementation of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP); energy efficiency contracting and emergency home repair; the crisis and cooling assistance program; and the Energy Solutions Research and Training Center. Currently, CHP staff perform certified energy assessments and building upgrades in 42 localities in Virginia – 37 under direct contract with DHCD and five as a subcontractor to a local WAP provider. CHP is currently a WAP sub-grantee in the New River Valley, Northern Virginia/Northern Shenandoah Valley regions of Virginia and in Central Virginia. The work performed in these three footprints, coupled with the work provided as a sub-contractor for other WAP network members within Virginia, enables CHP to complete over 50% of the total statewide WAP production.
In 1999, Janaka recognized the importance of ensuring that weatherization providers from across the country were appropriately trained with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to create healthier, safer, more energy-efficient living and working environments. Therefore, CHP began training WAP contractors and, in 2010, Janaka led the expansion of CHP’s scope of service when it opened its new 12,500-square-foot training facility – CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training Center in Christiansburg, VA – to provide energy-efficiency training to participants from all over the world.
One of the first IREC-accredited training providers in the nation, CHP Energy Solutions Research and Training Center’s experienced team of BPI, RESNET, and EarthCraft-certified trainers deliver distance e-learning courses and on-site classes at CHP’s state-of-the-art training center, in addition to hands-on field mentoring. CHP's training focuses on home performance using a whole-house approach, with the goal of creating single and multifamily homes that are good for people, good for the environment, and good for business. Technicians are taught practices and techniques that test and reduce energy consumption, address health and safety concerns, and determine how the building shell, appliances, and occupants interact with one another.
After a 40-year history together, the impact that CHP has had on communities could not have happened had Janaka not been at the helm. CHP’s impact is one in the same as Janaka’s impact and includes:
• 330,500 total people served
• 28,000 homes weatherized
• $395 million invested in communities through real estate development
• 36,000 participants received energy efficiency training
• 14,000 affordable homes designed, built or rehabbed
In 2015, CHP’s impact numbers in Virginia include:
• 387 sustainable homes designed
• 277 sustainable homes constructed
• 757 households weatherized
• 1,524 Virginians received green job training from CHP
• 90 affordable multifamily rental communities/4,823 units were managed
Awards and Recognition
In recognition of his role as a visionary industry leader, Janaka has received several personal accolades including:
• An invitation to participate in the inaugural program of the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation and Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government for Achieving Excellence in Community Development
• The National NeighborWorks Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award
• Selection by the Virginia Housing Coalition as an Architect of Change
• Recognition as one of Virginia Housing Coalition’s Top 25 Housing Leaders in Virginia
• Viridiant's 2016 Visionary Award
In addition, CHP and/or its community development projects are often recognized for outstanding commitment to sustainability. However, it is without a doubt the creativity and leadership of Janaka that ultimately leads to CHP’s awards and recognition including, most recently:
• 2016 Viridiant (Formally EarthCraft Virginia) Top Eight Out of Ten High Performance Homes of the Year - Grissom Lane Apartments project
• 2015 Virginia Housing Award for Best Affordable Housing Energy Conservation Effort - Grissom Lane Apartments project
• Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) Best of 2015 in Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency 3iAward for “Closing the Divide between Efficiency and Renewables” - Grissom Lane Apartments project
• Federation for Appalachian Housing Enterprises’ (FAHE) 2015 Green Energy Efficiency Champion award
• Preservation Action and the National Trust Community Investment Corporation’s Preservation’s Best of 2014 Award - The Warwick Apartments
• National Housing & Rehabilitation Association’s J. Timothy “Timmy” Anderson Award for Excellence in Historic Rehabilitation - The Warwick Apartments in 2014
• SPI-HUD Green Organizational Accreditation in 2013
• NeighborWorks America Green Organization designation in 2012
• EarthCraft Virginia's Multifamily Contractor of the Year in 2012
• Virginia Housing Awards, Best Affordable Housing Energy Conservation Effort in 2011
• ENERGY STAR's Sustained Excellence Award in 2011
• Virginia Sustainable Building Network’s Best Green Organization in Virginia in 2011