Construction to begin on Habitat houses

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — Construction is scheduled this month to turn a number of vacant houses on three lots on Neckel Street into homes for families in need of assistance.

A budding partnership between Habitat for Humanity Detroit, the city of Dearborn, Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, and Wayne County will give victims of domestic violence and veterans in need a chance to live in the dozen new single-family houses on vacant city-owned lots within the next one-and-a-half years.

The 1,100-square-foot ranch-style houses come with three or four bedrooms, a one-car garage and front and back yards.

Wayne County awarded Habitat for Humanity Detroit — a community-level nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry — a $1.5 million redevelopment grant to fund the neighborhood stabilization project, a program that purchases, demolishes, rebuilds or renovates vacant and substandard residential properties for resale or redevelopment, according to www.cityofdearborn.org.

Habitat for Humanity Detroit Executive Director Vincent Tilford said the houses will be energy efficient.

“We are trying to cut down on waste,” Tilford said. “The paints that we use don’t have any volatile organic compounds. We do a lot of things in the home to be environmentally friendly.”

City Council Oct. 9 approved the purchase of a vacant lot, 7455 Neckel, through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program for $12,000. The council also authorized the sale of the lot to Habitat for Humanity for $1, and authorized the purchase of several houses on Neckel Street for the Habitat for Humanity Detroit’s Dearborn project.

Tilford said Habitat for Humanity Detroit is looking forward to the project and working with its partners.

“(What is) exciting about Dearborn is that you have a lot of strong neighborhoods,” Tilford said, “and if you can get a family who needs a hand up not a handout, that can change the trajectory.”

Tilford said data shows that when residents are in the process of becoming homeowners – or are homeowners — they are more engaged with their community, their children have a better academic outcome, and they have more stability at home and in the workplace.

ACCESS Senior Director Sonia Harb said in a statement that ACCESS is committed to the development of the community through the Habitat for Humanity Detroit program and individual success.

Tilford said the various partnerships with Habitat for Humanity Detroit began after a number of meetings in an attempt to understand how each entity can work together.

“We all bring something unique and different to the table,” Tilford said. “ACCESS works with variety of programs and given some of the services that they provide, we thought there might be a way to provide single-family homeownership.”

Tilford said individuals don’t have to go through ACCESS to apply for the program, but ACCESS is telling its participants in need about it. ACCESS will assist with the recruitment of eligible homeowners and coach those homeowners, Harb said in the statement.

City Spokesperson Mary Laundroche said Dearborn will donate vacant residential property and assist with facilitating the design of the houses.

“(They) will vary from Habitat for Humanity’s standard housing designs to include a brick façade in the front to blend in with neighboring residences and two full bathrooms,” Laundroche said.

Potential homeowners for this project must meet Habitat for Humanity Detroit’s home ownership criteria, including the completion of 250 to 400 “sweat equity hours,” or volunteer hours, and obtain a no-interest mortgage, Laundroche said. Most applicants fulfill the sweat equity requirement by working on the houses during construction, she said.

According to Habitat for Humanity Detroit’s website, homeowners also must not have had a bankruptcy in the last two years; outstanding judgments of $500 or more; and debt, not including student loans, exceeding $1,500.

Tilford said he hopes the projects will turn into a community-wide volunteer opportunity.

“These homes will be built predominantly by the families who will be residing in them along with local volunteers,” Tilford said. “We hope to get city employees from departments like police and fire out to volunteer with us as well.”

For more information or to apply for one of the houses, go to www.habitatdetroit.org or contact ACCESS at 313-842-7010.

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