Thursday, December 18, 2014

Behind the Scenes: Video Send-Off for THDA Staffer Vicki George

Taking a break during video production.

With Christmas and our annual holiday party fast approaching, UHI staff got together to make a video to send off Tennessee Housing Development Agency Homebuyer Education staffer Vicki George.

Congratulations, Vicki, on your retirement! It has been great working with you and we hope you like our tribute!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Gift of Owning a Home

We believe that home matters every day of the year, but nothing beats spending time with family and friends in your own home during the holidays. More than any other time, this season brings people together and reminds us of the important things in life. Opening gifts around the Christmas tree and sitting around the dining room table for hours and hours are just some of the many holiday memories that last for a lifetime.

Jasmine Morris, a 27-year-old Memphis native and veterinary technician, always wondered what it would feel like to celebrate a holiday in her own home. Now, she no longer has to wonder. She officially closed on the Grace-St. Luke’s Episcopal Church GraceBuildersHome and moved in with her two daughters, just in time for Christmas.

“That makes me really happy, satisfied,” said Jasmine. “I feel like I’m providing my children with something that’s theirs, and as a parent, that’s something I felt like I needed to do. We can start new Christmas traditions in our home, and that’s special to me.

Jasmine’s dream has always been to buy her own house, and we made sure this dream became a reality. Unsure if she could qualify for homeownership, Jasmine enrolled in United Housing’s Homebuyer Education program and realized it was possible.

“When I took the course, it really became real to me,” said Jasmine. “I was actually going to be able to buy a house, and it was going to be mine. I have to pinch myself because it’s been such a blessing.”

Do you want to spend the holidays in your own home? There are stories like Jasmine’s all over the region, and we want to help you and your family fulfill these dreams. Visit our website, or call us at (901) 272-1122.

For more information on Jasmine Morris, read this article from the Memphis Daily News:

Friday, December 5, 2014

United Housing Selects Winning Designs for NeighborScape Demo Garden

During the Fall 2014 semester, nine students from the University of Memphis Architecture program prepared designs for our NeighborScape Demonstration Garden. On Friday, November 21, the students and their professor, Jenna Thompson, met at United Housing for the final voting on the design boards. 

The following five students were given the Participation Award, along with $25.00: Michelle Goulet, Jonathan Patterson, Catherine Pera, Sonia Raheel and Antonio Tirado. 

Four out of the nine participants received special recognition and awards for outstanding work. The winners are pictured below, and their names and awards from left to right are: Zach Gaines (Honorable Mention - $100.00), Ashley Espinoza (Award of Merit - Second Place - $500.00), Yasmine Jafari (Design of Excellence - First Place - $750.00) and Taylor Bond (Citation Award - Third Place - $250.00). 

Next spring, professor Thompson and her graduate assistant will use the elements of the students' designs to create a composite design for the final demonstration garden at United Housing for its Homebuyer Education clients. Once completed, the building and implementation phases will take place during the 2015 summer gardening season. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tamika Walker Feels Right at Home in Wolf River Bluffs House

We’re excited to share that we have our first homeowner in the Wolf River Bluffs development: Tamika Walker! Tamika was able to purchase her very first home after completing Homebuyer Education classes, and she and her family moved in on July 14, 2014.

Tamika has lived in the Memphis area for more than 20 years, but she had never fulfilled her dream of owning her own home, until now. Over the past few years, she has worked hard to build her credit and researched all the steps to become homeownership ready. While busy completing these steps, Tamika had her eye on our Wolf River Bluffs development and dreamed of buying a home there one day. Now that dream is a reality, and Tamika does not take her home for granted.

“It’s great just walking up and down the subdivision and feeling safe in my own neighborhood,” said Tamika. “As a mother, it means the world to have a roof over my two daughters’ heads. One of my top priorities in owning a home is to show them how important it is to have something that belongs to you, which you can take responsibility for and have pride in.”

While enrolled in our Homebuyer Education class, Tamika gained insight into all of the items she needed to bring to the table in order to buy a home. Furthermore, Sharon Walker, our Homebuyer Education Manager, personally assisted and counseled Tamika throughout the home buying process.

In addition to finding a place that she and her family could call home, Tamika was interested in finding a house that was environmentally friendly. Sharon explained to Tamika that the homes in our Wolf River Bluffs development, which she had her eye on, are MLGW EcoBUILD certified and feature solar panels, which conserve energy and cut utility costs. After hearing this, Tamika was sold on living in Wolf River Bluffs.

“The eco-friendly component was a major factor when I was choosing a home,” said Tamika. “My utilities in the past were so costly, and I have already seen a huge difference in my bill while living in this house. Everyone always asks me about living here, and I tell them it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.”

Start the below video at the 2:45 minute mark to watch Tamika tell her story. 

For more information on the Wolf River Bluffs development, please contact Anne Meadors at (901) 272-1122.

Friday, November 14, 2014

United Housing Employees Help Keep Memphis Beautiful

After working at United Housing for almost two years, Bianca Patel began to think of new ways for the nonprofit to participate in eco-friendly practices. This thinking led Bianca, Accounting Coordinator and Administration Services, to implement an in-house recycling program at our office in November 2013.

“I noticed that most of the trash we were throwing out was actually recyclable, so I wanted to give our employees a way to recycle,” said Bianca. “This program parallels our other ‘green’ projects we have been working on, specifically United Housing’s Wolf River Bluffs development, so it was easy to get everyone on board.”

Bianca doesn’t just strive to keep our environment clean while at work. Although there aren’t any recycling programs that service her neighborhood, she still makes it a point to gather all her recyclable products and take them to local drop-off locations. Her concerted effort is obvious, and her coworkers have taken notice and joined in.

“The response from my coworkers has been great,” said Bianca. “I have also been able to get our neighbors in the office complex to participate, which has been encouraging.”

The program is one year old this month, and our office alone already recycles 50 to 100 pounds of materials every month.

Saturday, November 15 is America Recycles Day, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful (link to Want to help us keep our city beautiful? Find out how you can recycle in your neighborhood by visiting:

Monday, October 27, 2014

Final Student Designs Submitted for United Housing’s NeighborScape Demo Garden to Benefit Homebuyer Education Clients

On October 20, United Housing’s Anna Gattuso and Amy Schaftlein visited Jenna Thompson’s Architecture and Interior Design Studio at the University of Memphis to review the initial set of designs nine students had created for our NeighborScape Demonstration Garden. Based on feedback from a jury composed of Anna, Amy and Kalki Winter, the students then updated their design boards and presented the final pieces to us on October 24 in our Homebuyer Education classroom, where the boards will remain on display.

During the Spring 2015 semester, elements of the students’ designs will go into a composite design created by Jenna’s graduate assistant. Once finalized, the team will focus on the building phase of the garden during the 2015 summer gardening season.

In addition to being beneficial to United Housing and our Homebuyer Education clients, this project also greatly benefits the University of Memphis Architecture Department and the community as a whole.

“What I love most about the NeighborScape project is its potential to provide sustainable landscape techniques to individuals who will benefit from economic savings and take pride in where they live,” said Jenna. “The ability for all socio-economic levels to learn about sustainable landscaping and gardening provides opportunities to reduce water usage, improve home values and provide food options. This knowledge has the ability to empower homeowners by providing greater understanding of the environment and how a healthy and beautiful home creates healthy and happy inhabitants.”

The project will teach Jenna’s students specific real-life lessons, which can be difficult to communicate in a classroom setting.

“This project will provide hands-on experience with clients who have everyday needs and a budget,” Jenna said. “It is critical that design education provide more than theoretical knowledge by introducing students to real design issues such as sustainable landscaping.”

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Celebrate 20 Years of Homeownership with United Housing!

Help us celebrate a special milestone in United Housing history: 20 years of providing homeownership services to customers in West Tennessee!

To commemorate the milestone, we're hosting a party on Thursday, November 13 at Amurica Photography Studio from 6:30-9:00 p.m. The event will feature heavy hors d'oeuvres and an open bar of beer and wine, as well as soft drinks and water.

Thank you to our major partners, whose support has enabled United Housing to hit the 20-year milestone of making a difference in the Mid-South. A few of the many partner organizations and supporters we'll recognize during the event include:

  • Assisi Foundation 
  • City of Memphis and Shelby County
  • Frayser Community Development Corporation
  • Jimmie Hopson, Crye-Leike Realtors
  • Magna Bank
  • Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability 
  • Meritan, Inc. 
  • Plough Foundation
  • Shelby Residential and Vocational Services
  • SRVS
  • Tennessee Housing Development Agency
  • United Way of the Mid-South 
We'd also like to thank +NeighborWorks America, who is generously sponsoring this event. 

Interested in attending? Tickets are $20, and all proceeds will go towards United Housing's Homebuyer Education program. For more information or to RSVP to this special event, please contact Amy Schaftlein at (901) 728-6937, or purchase tickets online here:  

Monday, September 22, 2014

LID Design Competition Sparks Development Changes in Memphis, Shelby County

Update: Water Environment Federation Stormwater Report highlights LID Design Competition, see link below.

In early March 2014, the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability put out a call for developers interested in participating in their Low Impact Development (LID) Design Competition. Phase 2 of United Housing’s Wolf River Bluffs Development was chosen as the competition site because of the organization’s interest in eco-friendly design. Once the competition was complete, United Housing would have the opportunity to look over all entered submissions and privately contract with whichever firm or team they chose to implement the development, which would feature 40 senior living townhomes.

LID is characterized by methods to treat stormwater runoff in a way that mimics the natural hydrology of the site, through natural infiltration instead of the traditional method of piping the water directly off the site. Because United Housing and the Memphis-Shelby County Office of Sustainability share a similar vision of implementing energy efficient technologies to sustain affordable green communities, United Housing gladly accepted this opportunity for Phase 2 of its development.

The competition design site was located on 12.5 acres of United Housing’s Wolf River Bluffs Development near the intersection of McLean Boulevard and James Road in Frayser. Teams were responsible for developing a plan for a gated senior living community that featured 40 townhomes, interspersed parking, an amenity center for seniors to gather and a cluster design intended to preserve as much vegetation as possible.

A total of 28 architecture, engineering and landscape architect firms represented the 11 teams registered for the competition. Participating teams included:
  • A2H, Inc. / Precision Forestry
  • Allen & Hoshall, Inc. / Site Solutions, Inc.
  • Blair Parker Design / Civil Engineering Solutions, LLC
  • Dalhoff Thomas design | studio / The Corradino Group
  • Fisher & Arnold, Inc.
  • Gresham Smith and Partners / Black & Veatch / Allworld Project Management, LLC / Richie Smith Associates /     University of Memphis students
  • Barbara Keathley Associates, Inc. / Roger Dale Skaggs, ASLA / Pickering Firm, Inc. / archimania
  • Looney Ricks Kiss / ARUP
  • Malasri-Gallo-Lawrence (JT Malasri / Corey Gallo, ASLA / Thomas B. Lawrence, PE)
  • Schnadelbach and Associates / The Ibert Group, Limited
  • SSR Inc. / Self+Tucker Architects / JPA, Inc.
Round one of judging took place in Houston, Texas, where the first LID competition was launched in 2010. Teams received 80% of their score from LID experts during this round, and the top three teams advanced to the final round in Memphis. The top three teams included Dalhoff Thomas design | studio and The Corradino Group, Blair Parker Design and Civil Engineering Solutions, LLC and Malasri-Gallo-Lawrence. 

The final round was judged by a local jury of 17 civic leaders, design professionals, developers and other decision makers, including United Housing Executive Director Tim Bolding and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell. After the three teams presented their projects to the jury and audience, it was announced that Dalhoff Thomas design | studio and The Corradino Group was the $15,000 winner. United Housing has the option to pursue future contract negotiations with one or more of the participating firms in order to create a compelling design and attract funding for Phase 2 of Wolf River Bluffs Development. The teams’ design boards will travel the state to be displayed at various conferences in Chattanooga, Henry Horton State Park in Chapel Hill and Murfreesboro over the next few weeks.

Anna Gattuso, Amy Schaftlein and Tim Bolding from United Housing with Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell

United Housing with members from the winning team, Dalhoff Thomas design | studio and The Corradino Group
LID Design Competition Coverage:
The Stormwater Report, a Water Environment Federation news service dedicated exclusively to stormwater news, from green infrastructure to wet weather issues:

Memphis Business Journal:

WKNO's The Family Plot: