As a strategy of redevelopment of North East Harrisonburg, the City of Harrisonburg acquired several dilapidated properties and made the lots available to several informal voluntary groups to build affordable homes. In 1994, Immanuel Mennonite Church and HRHA agreed to collaborate to provide affordable homes on properties on East Johnson Street, the most affected by blight. This area was of vital interest to both Immanuel Mennonite Church as it was located on the adjacent street, Kelley. In three years three homes were completed, with a fourth house in mid completion stage.

When, during the latter part of 1997, the coordinator of the program, Clayton Kuepfer, left for his home country, Canada, it was decided that all money saved from operations (about $10,000.00) should be spent on the fourth house and Hope Builders stop functioning as an organization. However, in January of 1998, the present Executive Director, Asrat Gebre, who was then a member of Immanuel Mennonite Church, expressed interest in revitalizing the organization. He was employed as Executive Director and was charged to give the fledgling organization an appropriate organizational structure.

Hope Builders was incorporated as Hope Community Builders (HCB) in early 1998. In February the IRS granted the new corporation a 501 (c) (3) non-profit status. During the first three years of HCB’s operation, the Virginia Mission Board of the Virginia Mennonite Conference assisted HCB with operation funds. In the earlier days, HCB, as a community organization, tried to address all community needs like children’s work, prison ministry and affordable homes. The complexity of affordable homes led the Board to decide that HCB concentrate solely on the provision of affordable homes, and in June 2000 HCB received a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) certification from the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (VADHCD).

Presently, HCB is governed by a Board of Directors, who come from all walks of life. As a condition of the CHDO certification a third of its Board of Directors are residents of a low income area or are themselves low income residents. Day to day operations are currently carried out by Asrat Gebre, who serves as HCB’s Executive Director & CEO.

Prior to 2004 single family homes (fill-in) and 11 homes in the Kelley/Tower subdivision were built and sold. All these in the NE Neighborhood of Harrisonburg. Beginning in 2004, 125 homes, (mostly duplexes and two town homes) were built at Covenant Heights subdivision on Covenant Drive (off South Main Street in Rockingham County). All the units were supported by HOME funds administered by the VADHCD. There is enough land to build an additional 18 homes after which we either close shop or look for more land.

VADHCD continues to provide HOME funds for the construction of homes. Covenant Heights is on top of a hill (atop of Harrisonburg) and as a typical Rockingham location, is rocky. Cost of construction is so high and had it not been for HOME (Federal) funds none of it would have been possible.