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Guilford County Schools awarded $500,000 in nationwide innovation competition

The challenge searched the country to find the best ideas to address affordable housing, education, and economic mobility.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Guilford County Schools students will soon have even more opportunities to impact their community in a positive way, as well as being trained with invaluable skills to graduate with an opportunity to begin a career. 

GCS is one of five contract awardees among more than 200 applicants who have won a contract award in Phase Three of the Fannie Mae Sustainable Communities Innovation Challenge. The challenge searched the country to find the best ideas to address affordable housing, education, and economic mobility. The third phase of the challenge focused specifically on unique ideas that can be used as solutions to the nation's affordable housing challenges. The solution that GCS submitted for the challenge is called "Safer Together Green Housing," which will create a model to teach GCS' students employable skills in construction while also increasing the quality and access to affordable housing. The program will utilize GCS' CTE (Career and Technical Education) construction program and partner with local agencies on affordable housing. 

"The impact that housing has on individuals' access to stable, quality education and well-being jobs is fundamental to understanding and addressing the affordable housing crisis," said Maria Evans, Vice President, Sustainable Communities Partnership and Innovation, Fannie Mae. "The five ideas we selected bring new solutions to bear on stubborn housing affordability problems. By developing new partnerships and testing new solutions, we can help empower groups that help families deal with the rising housing costs and stagnant incomes that keep far too many American families from living in healthy, thriving communities." 

The "Safer Together Green Housing" project will require collaboration between Cone Health, the City of Greensboro, the Greensboro Housing Coalition, the Regional Council of Governments, and two research centers at UNCG. It will act as an extension of the work that Invest Health project, sponsored by UNCG, has already done, which has led to over $4.5 million in neighborhood revitalization projects.

The "Safer Together Green Housing" project will combine housing rehab and construction training for students. Once in place, the project will aim to rehab 40 homes every year, grow the CTE construction program to graduate about 100 students annually from at least five schools in GCS, and provide a model for countless public school districts across the country. 

GCS provided the following key facts about the housing crisis:

  • 28,000 children in our community live in households below the poverty level. A majority of these children live in unsafe homes with issues, such as mold and inadequate ventilation. 
  • More than 8,000 children in Greensboro visit the hospital for conditions made worse by poor housing conditions. 
  • Greensboro has the third-highest rate in the nation for emergency room visits for asthma and other chronic respiratory issues. 
  • The National Association of Home Builders reports over 300,00 unfilled construction jobs to date.