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Raleigh, Habitat partner to revitalize southeast neighborhood

Posted November 16, 2011

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— The City of Raleigh is collaborating with Habitat for Humanity to flip foreclosed homes into affordable housing for deserving families. The unique program, which is funded in part by the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program, has sparked rebirth and revitalization in some southeast Raleigh neighborhoods.

A U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development official was in Raleigh Wednesday praising the city's stabilization program, which has spent nearly $4 million to buy foreclosed, blighted properties, demolish them and then turn the lots over to Habitat for Humanity to build new homes for low-income buyers.

"What I'm here for is really to acknowledge leadership on the ground... and to highlight the success of a great city," HUD Southeast Regional Director Edward Jennings Jr. said. "Because, when we invest in housing, it means jobs, it means stable communities, it means little kids, boys and girls, get a chance to walk out and play in neighborhoods that are safe."

Habitat is refurbishing a home in Long Acres, off Poole Road, for Debbie Pearce, who has been renting in the neighborhood for more than four decades. She'll soon have an energy efficient house on Lansing Street to call her own. 

"I'm so excited I could just step out of my skin," Pearce said. "It's time for me to move."

Her mother and father both died in the house she's been renting, which is set to be revamped by the city program next year, and Pearce is eager to leave those memories behind her. Habitat for Humanity plans to be finished with the home by Christmas.

It's one of four homes currently under construction in Long Acres. Two others have already been rebuilt.

Kevin Campbell, executive director of Habitat's Wake County chapter, said partnering with the city has given the nonprofit a huge boost at a time when fundraising is low, but affordable housing needs are high.

He said Long Acres, where Habitat has been working for more than a year, is a great example of the program's success.

"We're really looking at being a partner in holistic revitalization of the neighborhood, and a real holistic revitalization happens because of engaged neighbors and neighbors taking leadership," Campbell said. "(Long Acres) is no longer a declining neighborhood."

He cited statistics from the Raleigh Police Department that showed a 38 percent decrease in crime there from the first six months of 2001 to the first six months of 2010.

Pearce said she's seen the neighborhood make a turnaround and she looks forward to owning a home in it.

"This is about the second most exciting thing next to having my children. That's how excited I am," Pearce said, as she walked up the steps to her new home as Habitat volunteers hammered away around her.

"Hopefully, in this kitchen, I'll be cooking my first Christmas dinner."

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said the program's funding is secured for the next four years after voters approved a tax increase on the October ballot to fund $16 million worth of affordable housing initiatives, including the Habitat for Humanity partnership.

"Despite these economic times, (Raleigh is able) to help our less fortunate citizens and to build at a time when building costs are very low," Meeker said. "It's a smart investment in the future."

City councilman Eugene Weeks, who serves southeast Raleigh, said he's seen neighbors come together to organize a community watch to help blot out crime in the area. He attributes that, in part, to the city's stabilization program.

"The community took it upon themselves to say, 'We want to be a part of this. We're empowering ourselves,'" Weeks said. "It's always good to see the change of a neighborhood taking place, to see the construction going on and new families moving in."

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  • storchheim Nov 17, 2011

    Thanks to all who cleared that up.

  • kerrycelestini Nov 17, 2011

    Over the last 26 years, Habitat for Humanity of Wake County has built almost 400 new homes. These homes were sold to families who pay a monthly mortgage and property taxes. The foreclosure rate on these homes is less than 2%.

  • down2earth Nov 17, 2011

    @kevincampbell & elevatemysoul - thanks for explaining the program. I have been a volunteer with Habitat for a few years and there is nothing better than seeing a family's face light up when they enter a new home. Truly a blessing.

  • kevincampbell Nov 17, 2011

    There have been a lot of comments and questions resulting from yesterday’s story on WRAL. I’m glad to have the chance to clear up some of the misconceptions out there.

    From the very beginning, Habitat has provided a “hand up,” not a “hand out.” In addition to paying a down payment, homebuyers assume a 20-year mortgage. Because of community engagement in the form of volunteer labor, donated materials, and financial support (mostly private, some public), Habitat is able to offer a mortgage with zero percent interest, keeping the monthly mortgage bill affordable (average $600/month).

    Applicants to Habitat’s housing program are screened carefully and must have a steady income, a solid rental history, and a documented need for housing. They also fall in the income range of 25 – 60% of the area median income (approx. $19,000 to $44,000 for a family of four).

    All Habitat homebuyers contribute 250 hours of ‘sweat equity’ toward the construction of their home or a

  • elevatemysoul Nov 17, 2011

    There's actually more to Habitat than that- their web site lists the application process: http://www.habitatwake.org/homeownership/apply.html

    They also list the eligibility details:
    Selected families commit to 250 hours of "sweat equity," a reasonable down payment, personal finance workshops, education on home safety, guidance for participating in a homeowners' association, and monthly mortgage payments set at no more than 30% of household income.

    Eligible applicants must
    live or work in Wake County
    have a stable income
    be able to pay modest monthly mortgage payments
    demonstrate that current housing is overcrowded, physically substandard, too expensive, unsafe, or they are living in subsidized housing
    Selected families provide a $1,500 down payment and enter an affordable 20-year mortgage.

    So, as you can see, there's more to it than just "giving" a house to someone who won't pay their bills.

  • cantstandya Nov 16, 2011

    Can tell by the limited comments being allowed this story did not go over to well for WRAL,not a real sympathetic crowd out here today,it is sorta funny how one can tell when the comments are not well received.

  • computer trainer Nov 16, 2011

    Unfortunately a lot of the Habitat homes tend to wind up going back to Habitat or the bank, because while the "owners" may actually help with the construction, they have no skills as far as finances and they cannot handle paying the bills.

  • Proud Airman Nov 16, 2011

    What do they consider a "deserving" family? No criminal History, no drug use, and actively seeking employment? Doubtful.

  • storchheim Nov 16, 2011

    "holistic"..."engaged"..."empowerme
    nt"....all the meaningless words are present and accounted for.

    Meanwhile, somebody tell me what actual investment - money and/or labor - Pearce and the other recipients have in these homes so graciously being given them by Habitat, and by the taxpayers who provide the $4 million in condemned houses and pay for the staff at the revitalization program, to say nothing of the vast Federal HUD behemoth.

    I'm guessing she isn't paying a nickel or minute, otherwise the article would have said so. And are these recips low-income or no-income?

    Yeah, I guess having it built and handed to you is "affordable". But if that's the case, it should be truthfully labeled "free to occupant, paid for by others."

  • Follow_The_Money27617 Nov 16, 2011

    Im glad Ron Paul proposed to end HUD. At least one of the candidates are in reality.

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