Community Development Success Story:  Chipola Florida Area Habitat for Humanity

MHP’s travels recently included Florida, to reconnect with a beneficiary of our technical assistance work, Chipola Area Habitat (CAH). CAH seeks to develop a 9-acre site known as the “Cook Property” for affordable housing, and we worked with them to select an architectural firm to help create a master plan for the site. Fitzgerald Collaborative out of Tallahassee, a certified Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), was chosen. As the surrounding community of Marianna is predominantly African-American, it is meaningful to a team lead by a Black architect—for a Black architect to have a voice in, as well as the power and access to, physically design the built environment for a Black community.

While in Marianna, we facilitated a community engagement meeting in the City’s historic Black neighborhood, which has historically faced a lack of investment. More than 20 residents attended alongside representatives from Chipola College, City Commissioner and CAH Board member Travis Ephriam, and State Representative Shane Abbott. During the neighborhood planning presentation, MHP introduced the centuries-old, now-social justice saying “Nothing about us, without us, is for us,” to underscore the need for authentic engagement that is community-driven.

From Left: Jill Henricksen, MHP; Chipola Area Habitat for Humanity staff members; Cynthia Williams, Carmen Smith, and Jennie Ann Dean.

MHP’s community technical assistance model is built around self-determination and locally-identified needs, and our experience informs us that the participation and prioritization of communities impacted by racial and economic disparities is critical to successful community development work.

The lively meeting resulted in the start of a neighborhood revitalization plan for the West End, and identifying community members to participate on a steering committee for the master planning at the Cook Property, as there are many connections between these two parts of the city.

With the steering committee organized and the architectural firm selected, MHP will now assist CAH in the next steps of the master planning process, including completing necessary predevelopment studies for the site. The creation of a new advisory committee made up of Habitat homeowners is also in the works. We look forward to our continued work in Marianna, and to see the fruits of the community’s efforts in new affordable housing!

Does your region or community need help adding affordable housing to your area?