Pedaling for Affordable Housing with Bike & Build

Since 2003, Bike & Build has been connecting young adults from across the country (and the world!), having roadside dance parties, eating lots of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and advocating for affordable housing. Far too many people in the United States do not have the financial means to rent or own a home that is affordable, safe and durable. The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) reports that 11.4 million individuals and families fall into a category of Extremely Low-Income and spend over 50% of their income on housing.

Two people wearing hard hats on a construction site, holding electric drills Image courtesy of Bike & Build

Over the years, Bike & Build has organized service-oriented cross-country and regional bike trips, as well as recently developed weeklong and Community Rides, to raise awareness for affordable housing and build a coalition of young adults committed to service and civic engagement. Bike & Builders have volunteered over 255,000 hours with and donated over $6.6 million to housing organizations across the U.S. On the road, riders hop off their bikes every fifth day and pick up hammers, saws or paint brushes to help on the build sites. For Bike & Builders, “days off” are really “days on '' as riders serve alongside local community members in a hands-on application of Bike & Build’s mission to impact affordable housing. Additionally, prior to the trip every rider must complete 15 hours of “sweat equity” or volunteer work with a housing organization in their community.

Bike & Build engrains affordable housing education at various levels of the program experience. Before getting on the road, riders participate in a 6-week affordable housing curriculum covering various issues surrounding housing in the U.S. including public housing, sustainability, socioeconomic influences, etc. The curriculum, paired with the pre-trip sweat equity, gives riders a foundational knowledge of affordable housing in the U.S. before working with partners and community members.

Four people sitting on a concrete ledge, wearing different colored hard hats Image courtesy of Bike & Build

Throughout their 20-year history, Bike & Build riders have traversed 11 million miles across the U.S. exploring the Heartland of the U.S. to the pristine nature of Glacier National Park. With an alumni community 3,800 strong, Bike & Builders leave their rides more likely to vote, engage in advocacy and volunteer at least once a year. Not to mention, riders end their trips with a deeper community and with a feeling that Bike & Build has furthered their goals.

“All of the sudden you have this incredible network of people in your life, all aligned with the same values. And it’s not just riders, but hosts and families that would provide meals, organizations that let us do work for them.. These are all people who no matter where they came from all came together around this cause. Everybody values that spirit of going on this adventure to do the work.” - Bike & Build Alumnus

Similar to many other nonprofit and small businesses, Bike & Build had to make major programmatic changes to ensure the health and safety of our community during the pandemic. In 2020 and 2021, Bike & Build decided to cancel cross-country and regional bike trips to ensure the safety of our community. Despite the hardship of functioning without their foundational programming, Bike & Build used that time to explore program opportunities to achieve their mission, stay safe from COVID-19, and provide new access points to their programs. The first program to come out of the pandemic was the Volunteer, Awareness, and Advocacy Program (VAAP). This program focused on the service arm of Bike & Build and embedded volunteers with their historic build partners. This program helped their partners achieve their missions and projects and exposed participants to non-profit management, community building, and construction skills. To get riders back on bikes in the pandemic, Bike & Build developed Community Rides, which aimed to address and learn about affordable housing on a local level. Occurring in cities across the U.S., including Knoxville, Washing D.C, New York, and others, 2021 community rides connected a group of about 20 community members, rode around 15 miles and met with three housing focused organizations in their city. Community Rides enable a local impact and knowledge building, while Bike & Build’s cross-country and regional rides provide a national lens.

A person holding a bike upside down above their head, looking out onto a mountainous view of a sunset Image courtesy of Bike & Build

In 2022, Bike & Builders get back on the road for cross-country and regional bike trips with the Southern U.S., Central U.S., Northern U.S., and Drift West routes hitting the pavement starting in May. Riders, partners, and Bike & Build staff are thrilled to be getting back on the road, while also embedding Community Rides into the programmatic fold.

Consider donating to support Bike & Build programming here(Opens in a new window)!

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