Roxborough: Organization Pedals to Raise Awareness on Affordable Housing

Justin Villere, Director of Operations and Outreach, worked in the Bike & Build office.

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Justin Villere, the director of operations and outreach, worked in the Bike & Build office.

Bike & Build, a cross-country cycling organization, celebrates its 10th  anniversary this year. Located in Roxborough, the organization combines the concepts of raising awareness for affordable housing, getting young adults involved in the cause and cross-country cycling.

Inspired by the now-discontinued Habitat Bicycle Challenge sponsored by Habitat for Humanity, Bike & Build founder Marc Bush set out to keep the legacy of pedaling for affordable housing alive. Thus, Bike & Build was born.

Like the Habitat Bicycle Challenge, Bike & Build gathers young adults between ages of 18 and 25 to trek across the country in the hope of raising awareness about  affordable housing crisis in America. The decision to target young adults was a conscious one.

“The main reason is the passion and idealism that young adults bring to a specific cause,” Director of Operations and Outreach Justin Villere said. “This is our way to get involved with young adults while they’re still molding their ideas. That way, we can give them an option to commit to service.”

Not only do young adults get the opportunity to travel across the country and raise awareness on affordable housing, they also get the opportunity to learn about and help with constructing houses.

“Most affiliates have older volunteers who are very knowledgeable and make excellent teachers,” Ben Chrisinger, a Bike & Build trip leader, said, “so there’s a great opportunity for young people to gain new skills on worksites.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a house is considered affordable if you are not spending more than 30 percent of your gross income on housing. In the effort to help with the affordable housing situation in Philadelphia, Bike & Build works with multiple housing affiliates in the city.

One affiliate, Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, began collaborating with Bike & Build in the past year.

“Because of their unique experiences, Bike & Build alumni are extremely powerful advocates for issues of affordable housing,” Henry C. Randolph, volunteer coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia, said. “They’re educated on the facts and they care deeply about the housing crisis.”

Justin Villere stood beneath jerseys that Bike & Build riders wear during their trips.

Despite being a cycling organization, participants are not expected to be professional cyclists.

“We have a lot of riders who, before they started training for Bike & Build, had never ridden before,” Villere said, “and we value that because you’re bringing in a lot of different individuals. The main overarching theme is that they have a passion for service and adventure.”

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