Affordable homeownership program passes halfway mark

September 30th, 2020
Pilicia (left) and Sharleasea Spidell on the porch of their Newberry home just after they signed the closing papers

Five years ago, Lashell Jolly lost her mother and her brother within six months of each other. The family is close-knit, and Lashell was devastated. As she recovered from grief, she reflected on her own life and how to make the most of it.

“I decided on three big goals for myself,” Lashell said. “First, to get my GED. Second, to become a homeowner. And third, to start my own business.”

Lashell completed her GED last year. And this week she realized her goal of homeownership by becoming the 29thperson to sign a mortgage through our Newberry program.

Newberry is an 8-block area in the Chadsey-Condon neighborhood in southwest Detroit. Southwest Solutions is transitioning 60 former rental properties in the area to affordable homeownership. Current renters have priority in taking advantage of this opportunity. All prospective Newberry homebuyers must complete a Homebuyer Education Workshop offered by Southwest Solutions.

Lashell Jolly (top) and Demeika Weddington sign their closing papers for their homes through the Newberry program

Lashell had been renting her house for three years. The purchase price of the home was $59,000. Because she had been renting the same house, Lashell was eligible was for up to $20,000 in downpayment assistance as a conditional grant, thanks to a generous donation from the Sam L. and Judith G. Yaker Fund to support the Newberry program. Thus, under the terms of her 15-year mortgage, Lashell will be paying only $535 a month, including taxes and insurance.

“This is a big step for me, and I’m so happy to accomplish it,” Lashell said at her closing. “I am 44 years old and I had felt that I didn’t own anything that was truly mine. Until now.”

The small business that Lashell wants to start is a medical transportation one. In some way, it will combine aspects of the three jobs she has been working: two in home food delivery services, and one in home health care. Lashell cares for a disabled 24-year-old daughter.

“I’ve seen firsthand the need for good and timely transportation to medical appointments, and I believe my business will help others, too,” Lashell said.

After Lashell’s closing, there were two others that same morning, bringing the total number of new Newberry homeowners thus far to 31. The two other new homeowners are Demeika Weddington and the couple Pilicia and Sharleasea Spidell. In both cases, they will be moving into houses that were vacant and then renovated. Also, in both cases, they know the neighborhood well through familial connection.

Demeika’s sister Daniele had been renting her house in Newberry for 11 years before becoming the first person to become a homeowner through the program in December 2018. Demeika had been renting a house in River Rouge. Her mortgage payment, including taxes and insurance, will be about $150 less per month than she was paying in rent.

“I realized that I was just paying someone else to live in a place when I could have a place of my own and build equity,” said Demeika, 45, who works as a lead inspector for an auto supplier.  “I’ll be able to leave this home behind for my nine-year-old daughter when she’s grown.”

Pilicia remembers a happy childhood in the neighborhood, where she stayed with her grandmother just down the street from where she and her spouse Sharleasea are moving in with their four children. Sharleasea was born and raised in Detroit, too. The couple had been living in Dayton (Ohio), working for the post office. Their monthly mortgage payments, including taxes and insurance, will also be about $150 less than what their recent rental payments were.

“We feel this is an opportunity of a lifetime and we are so grateful to get it,” said Pilicia, 28. “We intend to pay off the home in less than 15 years and pass it along to our children.”

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