LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — A one-of-a-kind project is coming to 53 acres of land in central Virginia.
“It’s a dream and a vision that’s been festering for a long time and now we see it coming to fruition,” said the Lighthouse Community Center’s Director of Operations, Terrick Moyer.
This vision will put thousands of people on a path out of a paycheck-to-paycheck life and into a better future that includes owning their own home.
Amber Carter can hardly wait to buy her first home in this future community. She’s the type of person this community wants; she works multiple jobs, but she just can’t seem to get ahead.
“The places that I’ve lived in that were, like the government housing and stuff, there were a lot of issues with like water damage, flooding, stuff like that, mildew. They’re not pet-friendly. They’re not family-friendly. They’re supposed to be, but they’re not,” Carter said. “It’s just hard making it.”
She has lived paycheck-to-paycheck in rundown residences — like so many others.
“It’s pretty common in our community because the houses, most of the houses they may be living in, it’s substandard,” Finny Mathew, the Co-Founder of the Lighthouse Community Center, said. “It doesn’t have proper insulation in place, so the house is going to be freezing during the winter and hot during the summer.”
The Lighthouse Community Center is the non-profit behind this project, which aims to make homeownership — and a much higher quality of life — possible for many people.
The future houses will be built as part of a community land trust, meaning the trust owns the land.
Mathew says the homes will beautiful and affordable. People can buy brand-new houses built through new construction technology to make them high-quality and energy-efficient.
In the past, Amber has paid as much as $1,700 a month for rent. Substandard housing generally means more money is going toward utilities; that’s another $300 to $400. This is about $2,100 a month, just for a place to live.
The approach to his new community means houses will cost less than half of what a conventional home might go for — the Lighthouse is targeting monthly payments closer to $550.
Energy efficiency cuts down on those utilities, dropping the total monthly payment closer to $700. It’s also a mortgage, meaning Amber is building equity.
But the thing that sets this project apart from others is their devotion to help.
The new community will offer on-sight help for residents on everything: mental and physical health, job training, repairing credit, substance abuse issues, rehabilitation after incarceration, and much more.
Psychiatrist Dr. Steven Eisenstein was so impressed with the idea that he put up $250,000 of his own money toward the project.
He will have his own office at the community in order to serve its residents.
“I just know it’s going to work,” Dr. Eisenstein said. “That’s the kind of doctor I am. These are the kind of people who are here. These are our friends.”
Lighthouse Director of Operations Terrick Moyer says these support services will be at the very heart of the entire project: illustrating a strong commitment to community and the idea that everyone has value.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done,” Moyer said. “If you want to get your life right from this point and moving forward, then we want to build that foundation and network of support that’s going to help you reach that.”
Moyer says the concept of a land trust with wrap-around support services embedded in the community is unique in the country. He says leaders from other larger U.S. cities have already reached out to ask about this project.
The Lighthouse hopes to start construction soon, but there are significant up-front costs.
To donate or apply to live in the community, contact (434) 847-5050 or visit The Lighthouse Community Center website.