As affordability gaps plague the residential construction industry, keeping new homebuyers out of much-needed housing, some see the problem as a macro-level issue—one that’s best solved through policy and institutional changes. Others see the opportunity to help through smaller steps, by focusing on individual families.

“There are many hard-working families whose incomes may not qualify them for a home mortgage, but who are fully capable and committed to maintaining one,” says Curtis Moody, CEO for Columbus, Ohio-based architecture firm Moody Nolan. Through its new Legacy Project initiative, Moody’s firm now provides one home per year to individual families in underserved areas, where company officials say little investment is being made into single-family residences.

Image: Moody Nolan

And while you might expect donated housing to take on the most pragmatic and affordable form possible, the goal of Moody’s firm is quite the opposite. Built by construction partners using community donations and contributed materials, the firm’s homes are described as “modern” and  “appealing,” including 700-square-feet of space, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, an extended outdoor living area and premium, Marvin brand windows. Specialty North America, a local Marvin dealer, donated shipping and installation to the project.

“Moody Nolan is a big firm here in Columbus and we’ve done some projects for them using Marvin Windows, most notably various upscale restaurants and a health care health facility in New Albany,” says Russ Armstrong, president of Specialty North America. When officials for Moody Nolan reached out to Marvin for assistance, Armstrong says Chick McBrien, Marvin’s regional manager, architectural, appealed to him for assistance.

“He contacted me and said, ‘Russ, what would you do?,’” Armstrong says. “I said, ‘Well we’ll receive them and ship them, carry the cost and install them for free,’” he says of the company’s Integrity brand, fiberglass windows. And while Armstrong modestly admits that he “didn’t reach into his pocket” for the donation, in addition to time and labor, his company’s involvement equated to at least $4,000. Shane Stowe, Specialty North America’s operations manager, oversaw installation. Meanwhile, “I was surprised at how modern it was—how contemporary,” Armstrong says of the donated home. “It isn’t real big, but it’s highly efficient.”

After many years of considering how to contribute, Moody says his company’s idea seemed long overdue. “Our goal is to provide a family with a 100 percent move-in ready home by the end of February,” he says. Thereafter, as an annual gift, the firm will design and oversee the construction of a home in each of the 12 communities in which it operates. The hope, he says, is that other architectural firms will “take up the torch,” spreading the idea even further. “We want to begin a process of giving back to the community in a direct and tangible way—providing a superior example of affordable housing to one deserving family and hopefully establishing a viable template for others to follow,” Moody says.

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