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Amherst County Habitat for Humanity Innovates with Energy Efficient Building Practices

Written by Alyssa Wilson, University of Lynchburg Bonner Intern

Amherst County Habitat for Humanity is making enormous strides as one of the first Habitats in Virginia to provide energy-efficient housing to neighbors in need of safe, affordable housing. 

Through grants with Habitat Virginia, new Habitat housing can have solar panels installed in their homes for $20 per month with all upfront expenses paid. This helps to cut down energy costs tremendously. 

The organization has built 42 houses since its inception over 30 years ago, as well as 16 rehab projects. Their last three homes were EarthCraft construction. In the next few weeks, Amherst Habitat will break ground on two new housing projects which will be constructed using insulated concrete forms. Only four other Habitat homes in the Commonwealth have used this innovation. 

The insulated concrete forms allow for a vinyl siding exterior and sheet-rock interior with a middle space that is filled with rebar reinforced concrete. The insulated form allows for the concrete to cure slower which provides a much stronger, more stable home that can withstand winds up to 140 mph. 

With a combination of the insulated concrete form and solar panels, clients can expect energy bills that are next to nothing. 

Keeping housing costs like energy bills as low as possible is especially important to Amherst County Habitat for Humanity because 56% of the population in Amherst County is in the ALICE category (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed: United Way study which follows every census), partly due to the lack of affordable housing. 

In order to become a homeowner with Amherst Habitat, individuals must attend the “Homebuyer’s Club” led by Debbie Habel, executive director. The class is 12 weeks with a total of six classes to be attended before a client can officially begin their home buying process. These classes generally raise clients' credit scores over 100 points.

Within in the next few weeks, Amherst County Habitat will be breaking ground on houses #43 and #44, but before they can get started they need to add to their team of driven, hardworking volunteers

Anyone can volunteer, there is no requirement that a volunteer be experienced in construction work, and they will be taught the basic skills needed to thrive on the site. 

The organization will be hosting their annual Bluegrass: Working on a Build 2024 featuring five bluegrass bands and dinner made by volunteers. Anyone is welcome to come enjoy the music and tickets will be available to purchase at the door for $15. 

To learn more about Amherst County Habitat for Humanity, their upcoming event or volunteer opportunity, visit their SHARE Greater Lynchburg profile.  To view their interview on the The Mike Show, click HERE.

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