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The Challenge

For too many African American youth in Birmingham, financial literacy and stability take a backseat to survival. All six of the city's open-enrollment public high schools are deemed failing by the Alabama Department of Education and less than 10% of students graduate ready for college or careers.

Build UP aims to break the cycle of poverty through a scalable housing innovation that ensures young people have the credentials, skills, and agency to realize transformative, liberating wealth.

How it Works

The innovation defies Birmingham’s history of racial injustice and is rooted in the belief that true equity occurs when people have a stake in their communities. Donated homes from affluent areas are relocated and renovated as infill housing in neighborhoods where new construction has been economically impossible for decades. The approach reinvigorates neighborhoods, eliminates construction waste and prioritizes green technology.

Most housing solutions focus on multifamily rental properties for older people at 80% of area median income. Instead, this breakthrough approach prioritizes Black youth – most at 30% AMI and below. It prepares youth for careers in the high-demand building trades and readies them to become first-generation homeowners as early as age 21. Build UP’s plans to scale include expanding to other cities and states and creating a first-time homebuyer mortgage program.

A person in a suit giving a presentation
Winning this challenge puts us into a pool of like-minded people who are doing great work – people we can continue to grow with and lean on for support. It also means we can see more of our students become homeowners and literally change the trajectory of their lives.
James Sutton, Build UP Executive Director