Sep 28, 2021

In a perpetual search for growth, Jeniffer Kuria explores modular construction – starting with ADUs

“When I moved here, I didn’t think I would ever own a home.” Now, Jeniffer Kuria does more than own a home – as the CEO of Amani Construction, she builds and rehabs homes with a vision for creating quality, affordable housing in the Twin Cities.

Jeniffer moved to the Twin Cities from Kenya with a background in corporate banking. “As a single mother with two young children, it was hard to make ends meet,” she says. She initially worked an entry level position with Wells Fargo in home mortgage, and she credits that experience with educating her on the process of homeownership. From there, she found a position with a loan broker and started processing loans. “I saw who was buying and selling and for how much. And I started to think, what if I could do this? So, I started talking to sellers, asking for details and shadowing them.”

Through these conversations, Jeniffer met a colleague to partner with, and together they bought, rehabbed, and sold her first house. Inspired, she began educating herself about real estate development, researching and meeting with every experienced developer she could find.  “I found my passion! And I was going to take every learning opportunity available to gain knowledge.”

Soon, Jeniffer launched Amani Construction. “Our goal is not just to make money. It’s to provide affordable housing” without sacrificing quality, she says. Jeniffer is particularly proud of her daughter Joanne, who bought her own home through the Minneapolis Homes program and renovated it with Jeniffer’s help.  “And now my daughter works with me, full time!”

Jeniffer believes that as a small business owner, “the most important thing is to educate yourself and keep growing.” As such, when she heard about the Construction Revolution’s Offsite Accelerator course, she happily signed up to learn more about modular construction techniques. Modular methods appealed to her interests in housing affordability and growing her business, but she also believes that modular construction will be an important tool for helping cities meet their housing goals by increasing density.

Through the Offsite Accelerator course, Jeniffer met the founders of YardHomes MN, a new Twin Cities company that offers modular Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and shares Jeniffer’s goal to create affordable homes. Now, they are partners. Amani Construction is currently building two offsite ADUs for Yard Homes, which they expect to complete within the next couple weeks. “It’s great that what I learned from the class I’ve been able to transfer to a project and see it all come to life,” Jeniffer says.

The best part: These ADUs will provide much-needed homes for two homeless veteran households through a partnership between Yard Homes and the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV). The modular ADUs will replace garage structures on two lots owned by MACV. By building the ADUs offsite, the project will not disrupt the current residents of the primary homes, who are also veterans housed by MACV. Working together, Amani Construction and Yard Homes will help MACV double the households served within these lots. If MACV ever sells the lots, the ADUs will stay and continue to offer flexible housing solutions to future homeowners.

Jeniffer says her goal is to build houses that can be homes for a long time. She has a vision for how the housing industry can improve, from educating more small development firms about offsite construction to ensuring that people of color have opportunities to purchase homes and build wealth. Above all, she’s optimistic about the power of education and growth.

“I came here with nothing, but I had a vision I wanted to achieve,” says Jeniffer. “Always have the mindset of a student. There are infinite possibilities to live and grow as a person.”

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