STAFFORD — Stafford County Economic Development has been awarded a $3,900 grant towards constructing and renovating rental housing to address a severe shortage of modern and affordable workforce housing in a county where the average age of a house is 86 years old, and 80 percent of the housing stock is in less than “good” condition according to the county appraiser.
The grant is part of an annual competition sponsored by Bike & Build, a national nonprofit that engages young adults ages 18 to 28 in service-oriented cycling trips across the United States.
Bike & Build operates eight cross-country routes each summer. Approximately 32 riders on each route pedal from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific, along the way stopping in hundreds of communities to build with local housing affiliates like Stafford County Economic Development and to advocate for the need for increased availability of affordable housing for low-income Americans.
“We are deeply proud to support Stafford County Economic Development as they work to provide area low-income residents with stable, affordable homes,” said Justin Villere, Bike & Build’s director of operations. “Our riders work extraordinarily hard to raise the money that funds Bike & Build grants. They are excited to see that effort pay-off with such an innovative project idea.”
The grant awarded to Stafford County Economic Development was made by the North Carolina to San Diego route (NC2SD). The riders on the 3,600-mile trip, hailing from all over the United States, raised over $162,000 to donate to various housing non-profits.
The NC2SD group valued the proposal submitted by Stafford County Economic Development because of its promise to engage young adults in addressing this serious need in Stafford County.
“Constructing better and affordable rental properties is part of the overall strategy to combat community decline by retaining and recruiting more young adults to our towns to live and raise their families,” said Carolyn Dunn, Stafford County Economic Development director. “I am grateful for the support Bike and Build has given us, both monetarily and in terms of their volunteer labor. The energy they have brought to our county has been reaffirming and energizing to our local volunteers, and I hope to continue working with this organization into the future.”
Bike & Build riders fundraise the money to support these organizations and make the competitive funding decisions.
In June, a Stafford County property was remodeled at 207 Pleasant in Hudson to restore a $10,000 property. A $7,500 grant from Bike and Build will purchase materials for construction and rehabilitation. The cyclists’ work, valued at several thousand dollars, was highlighted by interior demolition work, in addition to painting the garage and landscaping work.
Crews in Stafford painted a downtown Stafford storefront owned by the Stafford Chamber of Commerce and painted and repaired bleachers at the Stafford County Fairgrounds.
“Thank you for being amazing and gracious hosts. I loved every minute I spent working with you and I think that you have beautiful communities,” said Carolyn Michaels, 2015 NC2SD rider.
“I hope all is well in Stafford County! I rode through with my Bike & Build family this summer. I admired your efforts to revive the local economy and draw the youth population back,” said Anna Allende, 2015 NC2SD rider. “I hope to one day find myself living in a small, rural community like Stafford’s. Continue to make a change!”
“Thank you so much for taking the time to come and talk to us, educate us, and enlighten us — especially on the specific challenges you face as small communities,” said Christine Foote, 2015 NC2SD rider. “That was the most in-depth, all-encompassing presentation we received throughout our trip. You are clearly very passionate about your work, not to mention extremely well educated and resourceful. I admire your dedication. Keep it up! You absolutely earned this.”
Based in Philadelphia, Bike & Build is a nonprofit organization that encourages young adults to address the country’s affordable housing crisis by participating in cross-country bicycle trips each summer.
Since 2003, Bike & Build has engaged over 3,000 young adults to contribute over $5.8 million and 200,000 volunteer hours to housing nonprofits throughout the United States. For information, visit www.bikeandbuild.org or call (267) 331-8488.