Moving Forward Breaks Ground on First Community

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(Rendering of Posterity Heights' first pahse, the Scholar House, provided by BWI LLC.) (Rendering of Posterity Heights' first pahse, the Scholar House, provided by BWI LLC.)

The organizations behind an innovative housing model that uses energy efficiency as a way to manage costs for low- to moderate-income residents have broken ground on their first community in Fort Wayne. Posterity Scholar House, Phase 1 of the Posterity Heights project, is geared specifically toward single parents working to increase their educational attainment. It’s just one example of the Moving Forward program’s intent to adapt to communities’ unique needs.

The groundbreaking at Posterity Heights in Fort Wayne is the realization of an initial partnership between the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority (IHCDA) and Energy Systems Network (ESN) to directly lower housing and transportation costs for residents through energy efficiency. What began in 2015 with two proposals to create sustainable “net-zero” affordable housing will grow officially to six projects underway in November. Partners say each of the developments has the potential to not only impact residents’ physical quality of life but also to break the cycle of generational poverty.

Posterity Scholar House is the first phase of a three-part community on Fort Wayne’s southeast side. Applicants must not only meet the income requirement but also show they are actively pursuing a degree or certification, thus being “scholars.” Single parents will be given preference in this particular Moving Forward community, which will include an on-site childcare/early learning component.

Joshua’s Hand Inc. is a community development organization in Fort Wayne which took part in the proposal from its inception. Founder and CEO Cedric Walker says the agency’s role was to engage the community in the Moving Forward project, and that it will continue to bring support services to the Posterity Scholar House residents.

“We see it as a system of integrated partnerships and services that are formed to produce healthy socioeconomic conditions that create legacies, while at the same time building a community worth coming home to. “ Walker explains that once the degree or certification has been obtained to help the residents achieve the next level of life development skills, they’ll have one year to transition out of Posterity Scholar House to make room for the next student family.

Posterity Heights’ other phases will include a grocery and health center as well as lease-to-own townhomes and market-rate homes. The project developer is BWI, LLC. Developers on each of the six projects around the state sit down with partners and industry experts in two-day workshops hosted by ESN to learn not only what’s possible when creating energy-efficient communities, but to hear what will best serve those living in and around them. BWI Chief Executive Officer Gary Hobbs says Posterity Heights will include a work force component.

"We’re linking in here with the Indiana Career Council and its plans here around the Department of Workforce Development to target four sectors: advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care and finance.”

“Education is going to be such an important part of this,” agrees Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry. “Not only from a cost/benefit analysis as far as energy usage. We’re going to be getting into money management, because the whole goal is to bring an individual and their children in, to give them the tools to live independently, give them the time to graduate and then to move on.”

The primary goal of each of the six Moving Forward developments is to move the needle on the costs of housing and transportation for the residents, specifically to drop those costs below 45 percent of average monthly expenses. Jacob Sipe of the IHCDA says the program is also designed to adapt to more complex issues, not simply build good, affordable housing.

“Long-term, Moving Forward can be replicated in almost any community that really wants to take on some major challenges.” He notes these challenges already vary widely in the communities with Moving Forward developments underway: Bloomington, Indianapolis, Lafayette and Lake County.

The developers chosen to work on the individual projects receive tax credits from part of each year’s Rental Housing Tax Credit General Set-aside. Efforts to identify new Moving Forward communities are already underway.

“We’re never done,” says Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of Energy Systems Network. “With each of these we’re learning a lot and using it to inform the next development, and we hope that we’re creating a model that is not just relevant to affordable housing developers but also a model that becomes relevant to all real estate development. There is a way in which you can plan the design and build-out that takes into consideration both energy and transportation costs in a sustainable way.”

Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of Energy Systems Network says Moving Forward is an example of a new paradigm, building net-zero buildings affordably.
IHCDA's Jacob Sipe says slowing the process creates better results.
Joshua's Hand Founder and CEO Cedric Walker explains the goal of creating a structural environment that teaches value and expectation.
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