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New Orleans-based nonprofit builds houses and frames character with high school students

An unCommon occurence

2529 Tonti Street.
All photos courtesy of Joshua Walther/The Witry Collective

Last year, a local nonprofit led six New Orleans high school students in a challenge to build a tiny home. This year, the organization worked with 13 high school apprentices to build a St. Roch single-family house.

2529 Tonti Street stands as the second house built by unCommon Construction, an organization that teaches high school students construction, team building, and leadership skills. This St. Roch home was completed in the span of a school semester, with construction starting this past January and ending in April.

2529 Tonti Street

Built in 2017, this new construction sits on Tonti Street, roughly two blocks from Franklin Avenue. The asking price is $249,000.

At 1,680 square feet, this home home has three bedrooms and two bathrooms. Highlights include its large sitting porch, airy open floor plan, 10-foot ceilings, stainless steel appliances, off-street parking, and generous backyard area.

The 13 high school students designed the home in cooperation with New Orleans-based architecture firm, Concordia. All of the homes built by unCommon Construction take design cues from neighboring residences.

Building the home

During the Fall Semester of 2016, from September to December, unCommon Construction finished its first in-house home, located on Prieur Street.

Each semester the nonprofit works with both returning and new high school students. Six of the students that worked on the Tonti street residence helped construct the home on Prieur Street.

“The house on Prieur was the first one we did of our own. That was a really a learning experience,” says Aaron Frumin, cofounder of unCommon Construction. “We had built and worked with high school students three semesters prior, but then we added an extra layer of being responsible for permitting and selling the property.”

Frumin notes that there were several challenges that faced the organization while building its first home. The nonprofit had to navigate New Orleans weather, while keeping a strict construction calendar.

While it was the organizations first time building a home, Frumin notes that the high school apprentices were invested, and their hard work paid off.

“The house on Tonti came together easier and cheaper. It was a much smoother ride,” Frumin says. “The students have been awesome, incredible, and the greatest source of strength for the project.”

Continuing the mission

Once unCommon Construction sell a home, it uses the proceeds to maintain funding for future acquisitions, new equipment, and student stipends. Starting this year, the nonprofit will direct funds to an equity scholarship award for the students.

The award, Frumin describes, will be based on how many working hours they put into building the home.

“We believe it’s not enough to pay the kids for the work the do now and give them experience, but we need to invest in the future and community,” Frumin says. “They are building as an investment in the future. We need to help them build for themselves and the community.”

Summer of 2017

This summer, unCommon Construction has worked with a group of high school students, building another home in the St. Roch neighborhood. Built in a similar style and fashion, this home will have two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and 1,600 square feet.