By Michael Hargrave:
Homefront, Inc., a community development agency located on 780 Fillmore, is part way through a large community rebuilding effort on the city’s West Side. For the time being, the agency is focusing on 19th Street, very close to several other projects by organizations such as People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH) and a few private investors.
What the organization is doing is far more ambitious than cleaning up a vacant home or two. They’ve gone and purchased several homes on 19th – a street that has long been known for its illicit activities. In fact, Homefront purchased just about all of the homes that were vacant and available for sale – a number that tallies about 10, and may grow as the program expands.
The homes are getting completely stripped out and rebuilt to code with the intent that future homeowners will not have any major maintenance for at least 15 years.
As I’m sure you can imagine, major renovations can translate into expensive homes. As for the mass purchase of residential properties, the people at Homefront assured me that they are not interested in gentrifying the neighborhood. In order to prevent home prices on 19th Street and the surrounding neighborhood from rising and pushing people out, Homefront is using City and State grant money to pay for the renovations and is selling the renovated homes at prices that will not grossly inflate the surrounding property values. They are also using grant money to subsidize the purchases.
In order to purchase one of these homes, homebuyers must land within certain income brackets and have the credit to buy a home, but most importantly, they must live in that home for 15 years. If they sell before the 15 year contract is up, they are liable for the cost of the entire renovation.
So, the neighborhood gets a bunch of well-built homes, people to living in them, and needed stability – all from one organization.
Joe Bologna, Project Manager for Homefront, was kind enough to take me on an extensive tour of the Homefront properties on 19th Street, so we will be highlighting a few of the homes, which are all in various stages of their renovations.