Helping Durham, one house at a time

By Mallory Darida
UNC Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

The City of Durham is teaming up with Builders of Hope and Consumer Education Services Inc. Debt Solutions to provide affordable, green housing in Durham.

By fixing these homes on Rock Street, Builders of Hope will be creating more energy efficient housing for people working in Durham. CESI Debt Solutions is teaming up with Builders of Hope to provide credit counseling for potential homeowners and renters. (Staff photo by Mallory Darida)

The partnership’s focus will be renovation of 10 homes on Rock Street in Durham.  Four of these homes will be fixed for affordable home ownership and six for rental.

“If you took your camera to Rock Street and came back in four months, you would be amazed at the difference,” says Joyce Kohn, director of communications for Builders of Hope.

Builders of Hope is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing homes that would otherwise be demolished. The organization began serving in 2007.

Larry Jarvis, the assistant director of the Department of Community Development for Durham, explains that a local quality of life committee had been working on six neighborhoods in the area.

When they heard of Builders of Hope’s work in Raleigh, they invited the organization to make a presentation. The committee members were impressed with their work, and the city granted them permission to begin the project.

“Anytime you take a house that is vacant and an eyesore and renovate… to make it an asset in the neighborhood, it makes it an asset to the city as a whole,” Jarvis says.

Kohn says that the project will benefit the “meat and potatoes to the community.”  Rehabilitation of these vacant houses on Rock Street will provide homes for people who actually work in the community.

According to Kohn, the Builders of Hope follows an Extreme Green Rehabilitation plan.

“Our goal with environmental impact is avoiding tearing down houses and making them energy efficient,” Kohn says. Houses are installed with energy star rated appliances and often come with hardwood floors, which are more environmentally conscious than carpets.  Rather than demolishing houses, Builders of Hope installs new insulation and replaces poor window treatments, Kohn explains.

CESI Debt Solutions, a nonprofit organization that provides credit counseling sessions for people struggling financially, is also teaming up with Builders of Hope on this project.

“We are going to offer their clients the credit counseling piece and provide support with them in our housing department,” says Tracy East, the Director of Outreach for CESI.

Over the last 10 years, CESI helped more than 50, 000 pay off their debt and become better consumers in the society, CEO Dr. Diane Chen explains.

These vacant houses on Rock Street will be renovated by Builders of Hope, a nonprofit organization that saves homes facing demolition. (Staff photo by Mallory Darida)

Especially during the recession, CESI serves as a valuable tool to people facing foreclosure. Chen says that more than 500 people in the local area received counseling in order to help save their homes.

CESI is an important aspect to the progress at Rock Street because potential homebuyers in Rock Street may have credit problems.
“Some line up well for home ownership with Builders of Hope but may have barriers with personal credit,” Kohn says. “CESI will help them on the straight and narrow to get credit they need, which makes our partnership valuable.”

CESI is hosting an Open House on Oct. 19 in celebration of its new headquarters on Barrett Drive.  Chen will be speaking at the Open House about CESI’s help in the economic recession, but also about the partnership with Builders of Hope and the city of Durham. Nancy Murray, the CEO of Builders of Hope, will also be delivering a speech.

“We hope that the open house will lead to a stronger partnership with the local community and with other non-profits,” Chen says.

Invitation-only attendees will participate in the painting of a “Wall of Hope” mural in the new headquarters.  Chen explains that the mural will represent the hope that CESI has provided to the local economy.