Grant Winner | Housing Construction

cdcb | come dream. come build.

Rio Grande Valley, Texas-Mexico Border

MiCASiTA is a unique off-the-shelf environmentally sustainable, disaster-resilient modular homeownership innovation. It is designed for rural families across the Rio Grande Valley and more communities struggling with persistent poverty nationwide. MiCASiTA marks a departure from a one-size-fits-all model to a system that empowers communities of color with modest incomes to choose and design their own homes.

Wife and husband standing in front of a house.

Founded in 1974, cdcb | come dream. come build. provides safe, sanitary affordable housing to the citizens of the southernmost area of the United States. Through collaborative partnerships, cdcb seeks to create sustainable communities across South Texas through quality education, model financing, efficient home design and superior construction.

Headquartered in Brownsville, Texas, cdcb is one of the state’s largest nonprofit producers of single-family housing for homeownership. The vision of this award-winning, multifaceted organization is to be a trendsetter in creating model communities, where every person is: 

  • Valued and provided options

  • Interconnected within sustainable communities

  • Assured a high quality of life

Affordable housing is too often synonymous with a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to offer any real choices for families most in need. cdcb’s focus allows residents and community members to make decisions about each housing development – cultivating agency and control that yields power.  

A mother with her 2 children standing in front of a house

THE CHALLENGE

Housing for people who earn the least is in a state of disaster. The single-family affordable housing industry and its elaborate construction techniques and design ignore the complexity of people’s lives and the unique fabric of communities.

Rural communities in persistent poverty regions like the U.S.-Mexico border continuously live in post-disaster quality housing, making homes out of shacks, tents and old RV trailers. MiCASiTA is an innovation based on the premise that families should be able to grow into their home – so they can move from disaster to physical and financial resiliency, and to individual and community power.

A woman standing in front of her house

SOLUTION: MiCASiTA

How do we build a house that’s not only affordable to families with very low incomes but allows them to build wealth, health and power? cdcb believes the solution is MiCASiTA, an innovation created by listening to and working with their community with cultural humility.

Simplicity is at the heart of MiCASiTA, a collaboration between cdcb and buildingcommunityWORKSHOP [bc]. There are no proprietary materials involved; no specialized machinery, robot or 3D printing. It meets people where they are, at a particular point in time, with the support of local resources. Its creators say the lack of complexity makes the idea completely transferable.

MiCASiTA was born out of the temp-to-permanent disaster recovery model, RAPIDO, initiated by Texas Low Income Housing Information Services. cdcb and [bc] were part of the team that redeveloped the RAPIDO model into a pilot selected for the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum’s “By the People” exhibit and highlighted at Habitat III, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development in Ecuador.

“We’re this small town, down on the border that is far from centers of innovation and finance, but we do have some powerful ideas. To have Enterprise and Wells Fargo recognize that is rewarding and having their muscle behind us is going to be extremely impactful.”
― Nick Mitchell-Bennett, cdcb | come dream. come build.

Seven years in the making, MiCASiTA provides an immediate response to unhealthy, dilapidated homes and unclear titles. The off-the-shelf model features an app that gives homebuyers choice in design and shows how their choices affect cost. The financing component (education and a loan product) works in tandem with construction, allowing families to grow their home as their finances improve and build equity through homeownership.

Environmentally conscious construction is key to MiCASiTA, increasing sustainability and affordability. The innovation’s scalable delivery system makes it transferable to other communities experiencing deep poverty. 

Partners:

  • buildingcommunityWORKSHOP

  • Texas State Affordable Housing Corporation

  • Rio Grande Valley Multibank CDFI

INTENDED RESULTS

Over the course of its grant, cdcb and [bc] aim to build six prototype dwellings whose construction costs are less per square foot than the average unit in the market. They will complete the design and launch of their Choice Empower software system, allowing clients to choose and weigh the costs of design options. They will also expand the MiCASiTA model to one additional persistent poverty region in the United States.

Looking beyond the lifespan of the grant, cdcb believes that successful scale for MiCASiTA is not just increased unit production: It is a client-led design and production system that is easily adopted and implemented across the country. That system will include a franchise model with built-in systems, processes and technology to support market diversity and context, both culturally and economically.

Most importantly, MiCASiTA aspires to generate a documented increase in client empowerment that shows measurable improvement in families’ physical and financial health and the true transfer of intergenerational wealth in communities of color.