Best Community Revitalization

A Tennessee nonprofit rebuilds affordable housing to keep a historic neighborhood intact.

Blue House Exterior
Photo: Alison Miksch

It was a hard bargain. But Harvey McLemore, a freed slave, bought 15 acres in Franklin, Tennessee, from his former owner in 1880 with money saved from years of sharecropping. McLemore later began selling subplots to fellow freed slaves and their descendants, creating a neighborhood fittingly known as Hard Bargain. It flourished and grew to 130 homes. Residents gathered on porches; children played in the streets. But over the last few decades, many of the homes had fallen into disrepair. To renew residents' pride and keep housing affordable in a hot real estate market, a pair of local pastors and a few community leaders founded the Hard Bargain Association (HBA), a nonprofit that repairs existing homes while also building new ones in the original vernacular. Applicants who complete a homeowner-education program can buy the bungalows and cottages for below market rates. "The rebuilding effort is breathing life and energy into the area," says HBA executive director Brant Bousquet. "It's like the Hard Bargain neighborhood that people remember."

MEET THE MASTERMIND

Brant Bousquet, executive director of the Hard Bargain Association

The Role: Jack-of-all-trades. "I raise money, manage construction plans, and organize community meetings."

The Goal: Community pride and ownership. "We never make a decision without the community's blessing."

The Future: More homes. "We want to keep affordable options available so people can put down roots."