Raleigh, Habitat partner to revitalize southeast neighborhood
Posted November 16, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — 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."