Lafayette Habitat for Humanity building ‘pocket neighborhood’

Lafayette Habitat for Humanity has teamed up with the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to design and build a “pocket neighborhood” of 13 new homes in the historic McComb-Veazey neighborhood.

“There’s so much history and vitality, and also some need in this neighborhood,” Lafayette Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Melinda Taylor said. “That’s what Habitat is all about.”

The development will be located on East Pinhook Road between Evangeline Thruway and Surrey Street and will add to the revitalization footprint already visible in the McComb-Veazey neighborhood.

Habitat has finished construction on six new homes on Sterling and Marne streets, with four more houses underway on Orange, Magnolia and Georgia streets, Taylor said.

Habitat’s revitalization plans for the McComb-Veazey neighborhood are in sync with a long-range comprehensive plan for growth and development in the works by Lafayette city-parish government, Taylor said.

Tina Shelvin, vice-chair of the McComb-Veazey Neighborhood Coterie, a community group that helps organize revitalization work, said she wants to “walk up to their doorstep with a pie” every time she sees one of the new homeowners on their porch.

The first design by UL-Lafayette architecture students is the “XYZ House,” an 1,100-square-foot, two-story home named for the letters typically used to plot structures in the three dimensions.

The model is based on existing basic construction patterns in the neighborhood and features a 300-square-foot porch.

A student team also designed a home, dubbed “Maison du Coeur,” that will incorporate solar panels and a rainwater collection system.

The home will feature multiple porches for the homeowner to “interact with the old community and the new community being built,” according to a presentation by the students.

UL-Lafayette architecture students also helped design and build one of the Habitat homes on Marne Street.

Habitat’s partnership with UL-Lafayette is one that will continue for at least the next three to five years while the pocket neighborhood project is constructed, Taylor said.

“We hope we’ve got a good conversation going about sustainable and affordable design,” said UL-Lafayette architecture professor Geoff Gjertson.

A community pavilion also is planned for the pocket neighborhood project, though funding for it has not yet been secured.

Lafayette Habitat for Humanity has built 93 homes in Lafayette and Vermilion parishes since its inception in 1992.

Most homeowners participating in the Habitat project are single, working mothers who acquire the homes through no-interest mortgages. They are required to help build their home and to assist with construction of other Habitat homes — what Habitat calls “sweat equity.”

Habitat homeowners also commit to financial training as part of the program, Taylor said.

Habitat for Humanity homes are built primarily by volunteer labor.

Gjertson said the students who spent five months designing the first two houses for the new development have already been graded for their work but will continue to volunteer and build sweat equity of their own.

“This goes way beyond their grade,” Gjertson said. “This pocket neighborhood is an example of what in-fill and revitalization can do.”