The Building Independence Project Our Blueprint for Collaboration

Guiding Principles

  • The project was managed by a Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) developed by three partner organizations:  Habitat for Humanity of Wake County, The Serving Cup and Lutheran Services Carolinas.
  • Fundraising responsibilities were shared by all three partners.
  • Habitat for Humanity of Wake County managed all phases of the construction process including costs until occupancy.  Upon closing, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County was reimbursed from funds raised during the development process.  The title to the home was then transferred by Lutheran Services Carolinas.
  • Lutheran Services Carolinas selected residents who had interests and the skill sets to live in a supportive housing environment and had the resources to pay a modest monthly rent.
  • The Serving Cup maintained communication for the first 12 months of occupancy to gain incremental knowledge about the Building Independence project and improve on the implementation of future projects.


The Building Independence Project brings people together to build and maintain safe, affordable housing for low-income adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities (I/DD) through a partnership with the residents, their families, funders, and community volunteers.

Project History and Need

From about the age of two, human nature pushes us to continually search for greater independence. Individuals with intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) are no different. While they may not be able to reach the point of living completely on their own, they want to be as independent as possible. For adults with I/DD to live at their highest level of independence within their communities, it is crucial to have choices and flexibility in the continuum of services. To meet the need for supervised, independent, and affordable housing for these adults in Wake County, Green Level Apartments were created in January 2010 through a partnership among The Serving Cup (a nonprofit with its roots in Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Raleigh, NC), Lutheran Services Carolinas (LSC), and the Arc of North Carolina (an advocacy organization). Located in Wake County, North Carolina, Green Level serves 12 residents in a supportive, independent living environment.

Encouraged by the success of the Green Level Apartments and recognizing the demand for independent housing for adults with I/DD, Serving Cup began working with Lutheran Services Carolinas and Habitat for Humanity of Wake County to develop a strategy to replicate the Green Level Apartments. Out of this partnership has emerged a building and funding plan that could serve as a state and national model, involve potential residents and their families in a larger way, involve the broader community, and be sustainable.

In Wake County, North Carolina alone, there are thousands of people with I /DD. The demand in the county greatly outpaces available services, such as housing resources. According to the NC Division of Mental Health, Disabilities and Substance Abuse, up to half of the adults with developmental disabilities have the ability to live independently – which means they are capable of caring for themselves and working at some level. Many of these adults need some level of on-site support to help them deal with day-to-day living. 

Project Description

The Building Independence Project serves nine adults with I/DD in three adjacent apartments in Wake County, NC.  Each resident has his or her own bedroom and bathroom, and each home has a kitchen, dining room and den. One of the homes has a larger common space to accommodate resident activities. The homes are accessible to some public transportation and shopping. Because the homes were built using a modified Habitat design, all structures are energy efficient (Advanced Energy certified) and affordable to maintain.

The homes were built by Habitat of Humanity of Wake County (NC) and owned by Lutheran Services Carolinas. The residents pay an affordable monthly fee for housing and services. Residents work together to maintain their home and are empowered by the skills they demonstrate in maintaining the home. The staff of Lutheran Services Carolinas meet with residents regularly to offer support, encouragement and assistance as the residents refine their independent living skills. Residents and their families provide feedback and advice to the partners that will inform future projects in Wake County and potentially across North Carolina and the nation.

Plan of Action

In 2013, Habitat Wake, Serving Cup and Lutheran Services Carolinas began seeking an appropriate property, preparing site and house plans, and having initial conversations with sponsors. To honor the unique nature of this project, members of the partnership visited the Green Level Apartments to talk with residents about their home’s features and their housing needs. In 2014, members of the project worked with foundations, congregations, corporations, and individuals to raise the funds to build the three homes. Residents, their families, sponsors and volunteers were involved in building the three homes in Wake County, NC.  


Nine residents moved into Building Independence residence in September 2016.  To understand the impact Building Independence has had on four of the nine families, please visit the Video page to view a short film Building Independence created by local documentary filmmaker Angela Alford.  

In addition to building homes to address the community need for housing for adults with I/DD, the Building Independence Project seeks to engage the broader community and develop new advocates for adults with I/DD.

For additional information, please visit the Contact page to request a copy of our Blueprint for Collaboration.  We’d love to hear about projects you may be considering in your area.